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Fencing: Irish athletes compete in Portland competition

Mike Monaco | Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Notre Dame took to the mats in Portland, Ore., over the weekend, participating in the United States Fencing Association’s North American Cup. 

Since the event was not NCAA-sanctioned and the team was not together throughout winter break, the Irish did not send a full squad of fencers. The event was used as an opportunity for those with Olympic team aspirations to improve their individual standing on the international scale.

Considering the scope of the North American Cup tournaments, Irish coach Janusz Bednarski said he alters his expectations for individual fencers heading into these events.

“They fenced pretty well as a whole,” Bednarski said. “The places that they finished in are pretty far from the standard that we have when we participate in NCAA events, but you have to remember that [North American Cups] are international events.”

Despite these tempered expectations, the Irish had some top finishes in both the men’s and women’s divisions. Freshman Ashley Severson took sixth place in the women’s epee, while a quartet of foilists turned in strong performances. Freshman Madison Zeiss, sophomore Rachel Beck, senior Radmila Sarkisova and junior Grace Hartman came in 14th, 18th, 21st  and 30th, respectively, in the women’s foil. In the women’s sabre, junior Lian Osier finished 19th.

In the men’s division, sophomore foilist Nick Kubik finished in 26th place. Junior James Kaull and sophomore Michael Rossi came in 17th and 31st, respectively, in the epee.  Bednarski was particularly pleased with those results.

“More than 250 of the best fencers in all of North America competed in [the men’s epee],” Bednarski said. “These are good places for our young athletes.”

In the men’s sabre, junior Jason Choy finished 12th, while sophomore Kevin Hassett came in 26th.

In addition to these current Irish team members, Bednarski noted a group of fencers who took the year off from the Notre Dame program to fully pursue the Olympic team.

“They performed well,” Bednarski said. “We had some finalists out of those who are trying to qualify [for the Olympics].”

Participating in North American Cup events provides such fencers with the opportunity to elevate their national team standing. Many members of this group did significantly improve their chances for Olympic qualification with top performances in Portland.

Kelley Hurley, Lee Kiefer, and Race Imboden all won their respective divisions, while Courtney Hurley and Gerek Meinhardt turned in second place finishes.

On the collegiate level, the men’s team kicked off its national title defense with a 6-0 win at the Air Force Duals on Jan. 7. The Irish defeated Cal Tech, UC San Diego, Swarthmore, Air Force, Stanford and Florida en route to their first win of the new campaign.

The squad is back in action Saturday when it heads to Queens, N.Y. for the St. John’s Dual.

Contact Mike Monaco at jmonaco@nd.edu