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Colorado Pentathlete Sets Sites on Olympics

What do you do when you’re the third child in a family full of competitive athletes and you want to make your mark? Jonas Scudamore’s father was a college athlete and a national champion in the marathon. His older brother runs for Columbia University and was nationally ranked coming out of high school. His older sister ran varsity cross-country in high school.

Jonas, now a freshman at East High School, also loves running and swimming and is darned good at both… but he wanted a new challenge, a unique challenge, something no one else in his family did.

The answer came in the form of pentathlon, a sport that includes swimming, running, shooting and fencing. Yeah… that’s a lot of sports to master. Just ask his mom.

“It’s a challenge for him to swim, fence, run and shoot every week,” says Jennifer Reich, who finds herself doing a lot of driving around. “But he likes doing something really unique that not many other people do.”

Cheyenne Fencing & Modern Pentathlon Center

How did a young boy with no exposure to fencing or pentathlon discover the sport? The answer: Elaine Cheris, owner of Cheyenne Fencing & Modern Pentathlon Center and four-time Olympian.

Elaine has been coaching fencers and pentathletes at her center, which is located at 5818 E. Colfax Avenue, for 40 years. She also visits schools across the Denver metro area to introduce kids to the sport she loves.

Elaine visited Jonas’s school when he was in 4th grade and she led some fencing exercises. Jonas and some friends went home and asked to visit her club. He was hooked. Especially when he learned that he could also keep swimming and running.

“I like the diversity of the sports,” says Jonas. “When it comes to fencing, it is very much technique-based. Running and swimming are more about endurance, and you do have to train for endurance in fencing, but it’s also a very mental sport.”

Jennifer especially appreciated the comfortable environment that Elaine has created at the center.

“Elaine is really good at making people feel ready for the sport no matter where they are,” says Jennifer. “The one thing she continually did was make sure Jonas was enjoying it. She would often ask him, ‘Do you love it? Are you having fun?’ She wants kids to love the sport as much as she does. That becomes more important to her than being great at it.”

But it seems like Scudamore, in keeping with his family’s tradition, is going to be pretty great at pentathlon. He is already blazing a winning trail.

Nationally Ranked Pentathlete

Jonas recently competed in the U.S. National Championships in pentathlon and took home the title in not just one, but two age groups.

Jennifer explains how that’s possible: “There are several things about pentathlon that are unusual. For example, you can compete in multiple age divisions and you compete against everyone in that category. So, you may come into your first competition and compete against an Olympian who is much older while being scored in separate divisions. This year, Jonas won the Under 14 and Under 17 categories.”

The aspects of pentathlon that make it unusual also seem to make it a welcoming community for new athletes. Jennifer and Jonas both describe competitions as positive experiences.

“We went to his first pentathlon when he was 11 and the other parents were really welcoming,” says Jennifer. “Jonas felt mentored and supported by the other competitors and parents. That’s really unusual in competitive sports.”

So, it seems that Jonas has found “his unique thing” and he’s already making his mark. What’s next?

Jonas says he’ll keep training and competing through high school. Unfortunately, there is only one college in the country with a pentathlon team, so Jonas thinks he will run with his college and train for pentathlon on the side. (See how the Scudamores roll?)

Jonas’s ultimate goal? “I want to go to the Olympics one day in pentathlon.”

Jennifer is all for it.

“This sport has given him leadership experience and has been empowering for him in a lot of ways,” she says. “I’m looking forward to seeing where he takes it.”


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