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Fencing: Youngsters show true individual promise

Chris Masoud | Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Divided by individual and intercollegiate competitions, the demanding fencing season can take its toll on a young team. But as the Irish wrap up the season of individual bouts, a growing list of accomplishments from a number of players provides some encouragement.

“We have a couple of kids who are making great progress,” Irish coach Janusz Bednarski said. “We had a strong showing of our top fencers last week. We hope that our secondary fencers, those who are not number one, will also fence strongly.”

The Irish feature two of the nation’s most promising fencers in the junior category in sophomores Courtney Hurley and Gerek Meinhardt. Competing in the epee and foil divisions respectively, Hurley and Meinhardt each finished the USFA North American Cup with a pair of gold medals, raising their individual international rankings even further.

Bednarski said that he is confident in his whole starting cast, which he believes has the talent to match up with the top teams in the country. His focus and concern have shifted instead to the depth of the bench.

“Our attention will be turned not to the top fencers who already feel that they are pretty strong by winning medals in world cups or in national competitions,” Bednarski said. “But we will look for those who will be challengers in the future, who will be trying to get the top position on the team and at this moment are freshmen and sophomores.”

An encouraging sign thus far may be the outstanding showing of two freshmen on the national stage. Competing in the women’s sabre, Abigail Nichols and Lian Osler have already claimed gold medals in individual tournaments.

However, raw talent can only take a young squad like the Irish so far. Senior Kelley Hurley adds a dynamic factor to the team, bringing much-needed depth and experience to the women’s epee.

“We hope that Kelley Hurley will fence strong,” Bednarski said. “Usually it’s hard for her to mobilize all [her] power at the beginning of the season because she likes to prepare longer.

But I believe the women’s foilists and men’s foilists should show pretty strong performances.”

If the Irish continue their current trend of winning gold medals in national events, their national ranking should be very favorable once collegiate play begins in January.