When athletes from around the world meet in London this summer to compete in the Olympic Games, there will be at least one with local ties.
Suzanne Stettinius will be one of two American woman to travel to the Olympics to compete in the pentathlon - a daylong event where athletes compete in fencing, swimming, horseback riding, shooting and running - and spoke to students at Cochran Elementary School Monday about her journey to becoming an Olympian.
Stettinius, a Parktown, Md., native, is the niece of Williamsport Area School District Foundation board member Edward Lyon and great-great-great-granddaughter of the school's namesake, J. Henry Cochran.
Suzanne Stettinius, of Parkton, Md., demonstrates to fourth-grade students at Cochran Elementary School Monday how she uses her laser gun. At right are two of her medals.
She explained to students what she can expect on the day of competition in London, starting with fencing.
"I'm going to fence 35 times and try to hit as many people as possible and they're going to try to hit me," she told students about the Olympic pentathlon.
The next event is swimming, which Stettinius called her "worst event."
2012 COMMENCEMENT SCHEDULE
Tassles will be turning all week long as a series of high school commencement ceremonies take place across the region.
Besides coverage of events for the daily newspaper, the Sun-Gazette will publish a special Class of 2012 graduation section on June 13.
Following are details for each event:
South Williamsport - 7 p.m., football stadium.
Central Mountain - 7 p.m., football stadium.
Williamsport - 7 p.m., football stadium.
Montoursville - 7 p.m., Memorial Stadium.
Muncy - 7 p.m., front lawn.
Montgomery - 7 p.m., Montgomery Area Community Center.
Hughesville - 7 p.m., football stadium.
Loyalsock Township - 7 p.m., football stadium.
Wellsboro - 7:30 p.m., high school gym.
Warrior Run - 7:30 p.m., high school auditorium.
Jersey Shore - 9 a.m., football stadium.
Williamson - 11 a.m., auditorium.
Cowanesque Valley - 2 p.m., auditorium.
"You can only do what you can do," she said. "You can't worry about everyone else (in the competition)."
After lunch, the athletes will compete in horseback riding next. When asked by a student, she explained that she doesn't bring her own horse, but the hosting city provides one for each athlete.
"You don't really make a bond with the horse, you just hope you stay on," she said.
The final two parts of the competition are combined as the athletes use laser guns to try to hit a target five times before they start running.
"Shooting is one of my best events because I started shooting when I was your age," she told the students.
Although Stettinius is one of 36 athletes worldwide to be selected to compete in the pentathlon at the Olympics, she explained to students her athletic career wasn't always the best.
"When I was about 7, I joined the swim team. I was the worst on the team, I promise," she said.
She began playing soccer, as well. As she entered high school, Stettinius tried out for the soccer team but was cut. She told students that failure is a part of life, but she didn't quit.
"I just want to let you know, sometimes you fail," she said.
When Stettinius was 17, she said her father encouraged her to try a pentathlon competition "for fun." She began working out and going to different competitions, but still was told she wasn't good enough.
"I started off horribly," Stettinius said. "I got my butt kicked at every single competition and they told me I wasn't good enough."
Taking a break from competition, Stettinius went to college - a decision she said helped her. After graduation she turned to competing full-time. Competitions have taken her around the world, including Germany, Egypt, China and Italy.
Her troubles were not done though, as she suffered a broken collarbone and broken neck while practicing on horseback.
"I thought, 'I'm not supposed to be an athlete,' because I kept getting hurt," Stettinius said.
Even recently she pulled her hamstring, forcing her to miss the final Pentathlon World Cup of this past year.
As she found out she qualified for the Olympics two weeks ago, Stettinius said she was relieved since she couldn't participate in the last few competitions injuries with the hamstring injury.
From being cut from the high school soccer team to breaking her neck to competing in the Olympic Games, Stettinius said everything happens for a reason. She wanted the students to realize that she wasn't a "hot shot athlete" but grew up just like them.
"I was just an average kid," she said.
Lyon called the feeling of knowing a family member would represent the country in the Olympics as "unbelievable."
"It'll be the first time I can watch the opening ceremony and pick someone out that I know," he said.
Since the pentathlon is the last event at the Olympics, Stettinius will participate in both the opening and closing ceremonies.