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Fencing: Irish fencers compete at Junior Olympics

Joe Meixell | Tuesday, February 21, 2006

While both the men’s and women’s fencing teams are hunting team national titles, eight Irish fencers competed for something unique this weekend – themselves.

The group from Notre Dame flew to Hartford, Conn. to fence in the Junior Olympics, which took place Friday through Monday. The annual event brought together more than 1,600 fencers from around the country competing in Cadet (under-17) and Junior (under-20) divisions in foil, sabre and epee.

The Irish contingent included sophomores Rachel Cota and Tom Horton and freshmen Adrienne Nott, Emilie Prot, Mark Kubik, Alexander Grigorenko, Ashley Serrette and Kimberlee Montoya.

Nott led the way among her teammates, placing second out of 204 competitors in the junior foil. Nott won all of her six pool bouts and then won six consecutive direct elimination bouts before falling in the final match to two-time World Cup Champion and Harvard fencer Emily Cross.

Though she was fencing for the title against someone she considers her idol, Nott wasn’t caught relishing the moment.

“It was more of … ‘Wow, why is Emily Cross so good?'” Nott said. “I [compete against Cross] kind of often, so it was kind of normal for me, and a lot of times you’ll think you’ll be tricky and she’s already on to you. It was more like I’m glad I have this opportunity and get to fence her.”

The silver-medal performance is Nott’s best on the junior national circuit.

“She fenced amazingly well this weekend,” Cota said. “We were all very proud of her.”

For her effort, Nott was awarded 552 national circuit points, given to the top 16 finishers in each bracket. The points allow fencers to qualify for national events and work towards national rankings.

Prot garnered 301 points in the foil for taking 15th in the junior division, while Kubik grabbed 302 for his 14th place performance in the junior division sabre.

In the men’s bracket, Horton fenced in the sabre (junior, 69th), and Grigorenko competed in the foil (junior, 112th).

Also competing on the women’s side was Montoya in the epee, (junior, 34th), Cota in the foil (junior, 124th) and Serrette in the sabre.

The format for the Junior Olympics starts with a round-robin pool of seven fencers. Points are awarded to individuals based on victories, hits and least hits taken. The fencers are then seeded into a direct-elimination tournament based on point-totals.

Regardless of points, the event afforded Notre Dame’s fencers valuable experience against top competition.

“I guess I managed my stress a little better than I did the previous match,” Prot said about her bout against Cross, which she lost 5-4.

Though the event was purely individual, the Irish fencers were quick to show their team unity.

Serrette, who didn’t compete until Monday, was in Hartford on Saturday to watch her Notre Dame teammates.

“Our support system for our teammates is wonderful,” Cota said. “It wasn’t a collegiate event … but the Notre Dame ties took over, but it was very cool to see everyone stick together when they didn’t have to.”