Shamrock teen sets sights on international pentathlon contest

Contributed photo: Rosalie Purvis competes in the Palm Springs Qualifier held in January. Shooting is one part of the pentathlete event.

Contributed photo: Rosalie Purvis competes in the Palm Springs Qualifier held in January. Shooting is one part of the pentathlete event.

Rosalie Purvis would like to travel beyond U.S. borders this year. And she plans to get there by running, show jumping, shooting, fencing and swimming.

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Contributed photo: Rosalie Purvis competes in the Palm Springs Qualifier held in January. Running is one part of the pentathlete event.

Purvis of Shamrock competes nationally in modern pentathlon — a contest with five different events. She recently qualified to compete at the Modern USA Pentathlon World Cup 1 that will be held Feb. 24-27 in Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage, Calif. The 18-year-old has been training about five hours daily to get ready for the competition. If she scores well in California, she will move on to the next qualifying competition until she reaches the fall Modern Pentathlon Junior World Championships in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

“My goal this year is to actually go outside the U.S. to compete,” Purvis said.

Purvis has never traveled outside the U.S. and hopes the pentathlon is her ticket to do so.

The pentathlon consists of a 200-meter swim, épée fencing, show jumping, and a 3000-meter run interspersed with target shooting.

“My favorites are riding and fencing,” Purvis said.

The home-schooled senior has been riding since she was 7 years old. She still has a horse on her family’s property, a thoroughbred named Tucker. But Tucker stays home during competitions. At the pentathlon, Purvis must draw the number of a horse out of a hat to see which mount she will ride from the pool of horses available.

“That’s what makes the riding part challenging, but I have a lot of fun with the catch riding,” she said.

Fencing is a relatively new sport for Purvis. She delved into about a year ago when she decided to compete as a pentathlete.

“It was definitely a challenge at first, and now it’s one of my favorite things to do,” she said.

Her fencing coach, Chuck Willis III, lives in St. Louis. Purvis travels to St. Louis twice during the week to fence against others and drives down on the weekends for private lessons with Willis.

“I think she’s doing remarkably well,” said Willis. “It’s very difficult to pick up the épée ... épée is a very complicated weapon — the tactics and the movement — so to pick up where she is, at this point, is extraordinary.”

Purvis also trains with a swimming coach,

Matthias McManus of Mexico, five days a week. The most difficult event she faces is the running/shooting, she said.

“Running is something that I’m always constantly working at.”

In past contests, Purvis had always used an air pistol on knock-down targets. At the upcoming competition in California, she will use a laser pistol, which she hopes will be faster and easier to use.

A fellow U.S. Pony Club member first got Purvis interested in the pentathlon. Purvis said Sam Sacksen, a pentathlete Olympian, inspired her to begin training for the contest. She started with tetrathlon contests and moved onto the pentathlon scene in March 2010. The teen says she now loves “the whole experience.”

“I really enjoy it, because it’s different and it keeps me active. I love to be active.”

Purvis also stays active in her schooling. She takes two classes at Westminster College and two at William Woods University. After she graduates high school, she plans to earn a degree in mechanical engineering.

Melissa Purvis said her daughter’s ventures keep the senior very busy but being home-schooled helps with the flexible schedule that she needs to keep up with everything.

“She’s very determined and very focused on particular goals,” Melissa said.

Purvis said her dad, Doug Purvis, and mom have been “very supportive” of her endeavors.

“I wouldn’t be where I am right now without them, and I’m very thankful for that.”

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