The Irish have become accustomed to winning at the highest levels, capturing multiple medals at junior world cup events this season. This weekend’s showing at the USFA North American Cup in Pittsburgh only confirmed those expectations.
“In general our fencers played very well, having strong bouts, and it was a good tournament for us,” head coach Janusz Bednarski said. “It was a very tough competition with a lot of very good fencers from Canada, Mexico, even from Switzerland. In some competitions, like men’s epee, it was more than 220 fencers, so it’s a big tournament that requires good preparation.”
The Irish took home the gold medal in women’s epee as senior Kelley Hurley bested an elite field of international fencers, including her sister sophomore Courtney Hurley. Due to an improbable misfortune, the two siblings were seeded together in the single-elimination bracket.
“Whoever wins goes up, and it was bad luck that they were forced to face each other,” Bednarski said. “It’s the kind of system that is making decisions based on pairs, and they are both extremely good fencers. Only one can go up, and Kelley, a former junior world cup champion and NCAA champion, won.”
Hurley dispatched Canadian Eirn Selzer in the championship bout to complete her gold medal run.
“She beat Selzer after a very heavy bout, and it was tied until the last minute, but she demolished the Canadian in the last five touches,” Bednarski said.
Heading into the invitational, Bednarski and the coaching staff said they fully realized the elite level of competition an open tournament brings. Nevertheless, they expected strong performances out of the entire squad, and were not disappointed.
Sophomore Gerek Meinhardt turned in a top-8 finish, while freshman Lian Osier continued her success on the international stage, finishing fifth in women’s saber.
Bednarski is very pleased with the progress Osier and the underclassmen have shown in recent bouts against stiff competition.
“You have to be very strong, and in addition it’s open category, so all the best are competing for Olympic and national team points,” Bednarski said. “For me, the most important thing was to look at the bouts, not only for medals, but how the younger fencers are performing, and I was very, very happy with some young fencers.”