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Fencing: Irish take three medals, finish season strongly

Mike Monaco | Monday, April 16, 2012

Three weeks after finishing in third place at the NCAA Championships, the Irish concluded the 2012 campaign with strong individual showings from their eight participants at the United States Fencing Association’s national championships in Virginia Beach, Va., over the weekend.

A host of current Notre Dame underclassmen turned in respectable finishes, while upperclassmen and former Irish fencers placed at the top of the pools.

“We had some pretty strong results,” Irish coach Janusz Bednarski said. “Our two gold medals, and then some good finishes from our other students who are returning next year are good, and are signs of the foundation for how we should look next year.”

The men’s epee competition got the action started Friday. Sophomore epeeist Michael Rossi, who went 36-21 in the regular season, finished in 15th place.

Sophomore foilist Nick Kubik, who was third on the Irish foil team with 36 wins during the regular season, came in 22nd in Saturday’s men’s foil event.

Bednarski said he was pleased with how the performances of Rossi and Kubik bode for next year.

“It’s good to see those results from [Rossi and Kubik] because they will be part of a strong pool of fencers for next year,” Bednarski said.

On the women’s side, freshman Ashley Severson took 24th place Saturday in the women’s epee. Severson led the Irish women’s epee squad with a 37-7 record in the regular season, won a bronze medal at the National Junior Olympics in February and was named a second-team All-American at the NCAA championships.

Fellow freshman foilist Madison Zeiss finished in 10th place Sunday to conclude a strong first year. Zeiss compiled a stellar 42-5 record in the regular season and, like Severson, was named a second-team All-American.

“Zeiss in 10th place means she was also pretty highly-located,” Bednarski said. “That is a great result for her – probably her best yet – in an event like the [national championship].”

Notre Dame’s old guard had top finishes as well, as current team members and recent graduates turned in strong performances.

The Hurley sisters stole the show during Saturday’s women’s epee competition. Courtney, a current senior who took the year off from competing for Notre Dame in order to train and qualify for the Olympics, won the gold medal. Her older sister

Kelley, who graduated from Notre Dame in 2010 and was a two-time first-team All-American during her career, claimed the silver medal.

Later in the day, Gerek Meinhardt took the gold medal in the men’s foil competition. Meinhardt, who won the 2010 NCAA foil title and participated in the 2008 Olympics, also took the 2012 season off to pursue his Olympic aspirations.

Although these fencers were not with the Irish in 2012, Bednarski said he is still pleased to see their strong showings.

“It is great to have them finish so high,” Bednarksi said. “It is an appreciation of our program and our university. Even if they graduated from us, they are still a part of us, and I hope they can qualify for the Olympic Games in London. That’s why some of them took the year off, to qualify, and it’s a good sign they are winning.”

Junior foilist Grace Hartman took sixth place Sunday in the women’s foil competition, finishing four spots ahead of Zeiss.

“Hartman coming in sixth place is very high,” Bednarski said. “It is great for her, especially in the nationals. I don’t think she’s ever been that high and she was in the final eight which is great.”

Contact Mike Monaco at jmonaco@nd.edu