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Fencing: Members go to Junior Olympics

Conor Kelly | Friday, February 18, 2011

Even on what is technically an off weekend, the Notre Dame fencing team will get a chance to shine. The undefeated and No. 1 ranked Irish teams will send three freshmen and one sophomore fencer to Dallas this weekend to compete in the United States Fencing Association Junior Olympic Championships.

The Junior Olympics are based on national points accumulated through years of amateur competition. Freshmen Mike Rossi, Nicholas Kubik, Abigail Nichols and sophomore James Kaull will compete against 1,500 of the top fencers in the country in an event that serves as a qualifier to represent Team USA at the 2011 Cadet and Junior World Championships to be held in Jordan in March. For Rossi, this weekend will be his fifth year competing at the Junior Olympics.

“I began fencing with the Fencing Academy of Westchester, and as I got better I was picked up by the New York Athletic Club,” Rossi said. “My best finish at the Junior Olympics was an eighth overall, so I hope to improve.”

That eighth overall is significant in that in this competition there are only two age divisions, under-17 and under-20. According to Rossi, the experience of having fenced against much older athletes will help the Irish quartet this weekend.

“It’s definitely an advantage to have a lot of experience going in,” Rossi said. “We’re older, stronger, and more experienced than a lot of the other fencers. Plus, we’re so focused on the NCAA season that we’re not too nervous going in.”

Perhaps one person who has cause to be nervous going in is the sophomore Kaull, who Rossi believes has a legitimate chance of making the US team that will go to Jordan. After a 10th place finish at the NCAA National Championships last year, Kaull should be one of the favorites going into the Junior Olympics.

“James is definitely among the top three for this event,” Rossi said. “I think he has a pretty good of making the team.”

For these Irish fencers, the Junior Olympics, which are completely independent of the NCAA, will be the end of the line for their pre-collegiate fencing careers. With their eyes on an NCAA national championship, the foursome views the competition as a stepping-stone to team success.

“We are completely focused on winning NCAA’s,” Rossi said. “But it’s nice to get a chance to fence as individual.”

For some, it could be a chance to move on and represent their country. For others, it will be a chance to garner individual accolades. Regardless, all realize the honor of representing Notre Dame at a national competition.

“We’re definitely hoping to have a good showing for the Irish. We want to show we have the best fencers in the country,” Rossi said.

Competition will begin on Saturday in Dallas.