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Fencing: Underclassmen helping young squad to strong start

Christopher Masoud | Thursday, January 22, 2009

After yet another impressive performance at the North American Cup D last weekend, the talented cast of freshmen and sophomores is emerging as the backbone of the promising Irish squad.

Led by sophomore Avery Zuck and freshmen Gerek Meinhardt and Courtney Hurley, the Irish took home three gold medals and a combined five top-five finishes at the competition held in Kentucky.

“We never had such a good result like this year,” seventh-year coach Janusz Bednarski said of last weekend’s tournament. “We won a lot of medals, that’s a positive of this competition. I believe that it was one of the best starts in national tryouts for the Irish.”

The Irish were successful in the men’s sabre and epee divisions.

Zuck battled through a field of 113 athletes in the sabre for a first-place title, while fellow sophomore Barron Nydam finished tied for third. Senior Karol Kostka’s experience ensured him a fifth-place finish in a record field of 245 in the epee.

But the freshman combo of Hurley and Meinhardt stole the show, earning first-place finishes in both the open and junior categories in the women’s epee and men’s foil respectively. Meinhardt, an Olympian in Beijing, is coming off a recent knee surgery that sidelined him for the greater part of the preseason.

“After competing in the Olympic Games, it’s natural to be off for a couple of weeks in the preseason,” Bednarski said. “Others are already in the middle of the run and they have to catch up. But on the men’s side, Gerek Meinhardt is one of the best.”

Equally impressive was Hurley’s performance, the younger sister of Olympian Kelley Hurley.

Bednarski’s young stars still have a long way to go before the 2012 Olympics in London, but they appear ready for the start of intercollegiate play this week.

“They are positioning themselves well for the national team, but we are ready to compete now with the best collegiate teams in the nation,” Bednarski said. “We are probably not the No. 1 team, but we will challenge anyone who tries to fence against us.

“What the end result will be I don’t know. I can’t promise. But I know only that our kids are ready to fence.”

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