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Fencing: Irish athletes compete individually

Matthew Robison | Friday, April 13, 2012

Although the season has ended for Notre Dame, some of its top fencers will compete in the United States Fencing Association’s national championships this weekend in Virginia Beach, Va.

The results do not directly affect Notre Dame’s standings in the NCAA, but Irish coach Janusz Bednarski said the competition gives him a good idea of where his team will be for next year, as well as confirmation that the program can prepare fencers for the next level.

“It’s always confirmation that we are not only strong on the college-age fencing, but we are also strong and with dreams to be on Olympic teams,” Bednarski said.

One of the problems the Irish faced during their pursuit to repeat as national champions, which ended with a third-place finish at the NCAA championships, was the loss of their best competitors to the Olympic trials and training.

“This is important, psychologically important,” Bednarski said. “It won’t give us a higher position in NCAA at this moment. But it builds a foundation for next year.”

Those fencers will be back representing Notre Dame and themselves this weekend. In total, 13 fencers will represent the Irish. Eight of those fencers are currently competing for Notre Dame and were with the Irish all season: sophomore epeeist Michael Rossi, freshman epeeist Ashley Severson, sophomore foilists Nick Kubik and Rachel Beck, junior foilist Grace Hartman, senior foilist Radmila Sarkisova, freshman foilist Madison Zeiss and sophomore sabreur Kevin Hassett.

Sisters Courtney and Kelley Hurley will compete in the women’s foil. Kelley graduated from Notre Dame in 2010 and was a two-time first-team All-American during her time here. She competed in the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and an NCAA champion in the same year. Courtney, a senior, competed for the Irish last season, a key figure in their national championship campaign, and has spent this year qualifying and training for the Olympics. She was a two-time first-team All-American in 2009 and 2010.

Race Imboden and Gerek Meinhardt are both enrolled at Notre Dame, but have taken the year off to qualify for the Olympics. Meinhardt competed in the 2008 Olympics and won the 2010 NCAA foil crown.

Lee Kiefer, a women’s foilist, has signed a national letter of intent to attend Notre Dame next year. She will compete this weekend as well.

The number could have been even higher, Bednarski said. Because the Irish were not allowed to hold formal practices for the event in the postseason, as well as the tough time it is academically at the end of the semester, some fencers decided not to make the trip.

“The whole team will observe how our leaders compete in a big battle,” Bednarski said.

The USFA national championship begin today and run all day through Saturday, Sunday and Monday in Virginia Beach, Va.

 

Contact Matthew Robison at mrobison@nd.edu