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Fencing: Followill follows dream to Notre Dame

Laura Coletti | Tuesday, February 26, 2013

When freshman Sarah Followill was a sophomore in high school, she was not considering the prestigious Notre Dame fencing program.

That is, until she met Irish associate head coach Gia Kvaratskhelia while she was competing abroad.

“I was at a World Cup in France and was staying at a friend’s house, and a coach needed a place to stay,” she said. “That coach happened to be [Kvaratskhelia]. He lived with us for about a week and got me interested in going to Notre Dame. Ever since then, my goal has been to come here.”

The Bellaire, Texas, native has reached that goal and beyond. She has fenced her way to a 25-4 record for the Irish, including a 13-1 showing at the Notre Dame Duals last weekend, which she competed in despite having a fever.

Followill first became interested in fencing at a young age when her current hometown coach gave a demonstration at her elementary school. It was also at this time that Followill learned to use her current weapon, the foil.

“[My coach at home] is a foil coach, and since I was his student, I began fencing foil,” she said.

The transition to collegiate fencing came easily for Followill and was helpful to her adjustment to life at Notre Dame.

“Coming onto the fencing team at the beginning of the year was probably the most comfort I’ve felt in my entire transition to college,” she said. “I knew a lot of people on the team already, and the people I didn’t know were just as welcoming. Fencing and the fencing team is my outlet, and despite hard workouts and hard practices, it has always been the best part of my day.
“The college transition was hard, like it is for most people, but I definitely have the best support system in the world to back me up.”

Despite the ease of joining the team, there is one big difference between fencing for the Irish and fencing for her club in Texas.

“I came from a fencing club with all boys, so being on a team with girls is different and exciting for me,” Followill said.

This weekend, Followill will earn her first monogram when she competes at the Midwest Conference Championships. She and the rest of the Irish will host the meet Saturday and Sunday in the Joyce Center.

Contact Laura Coletti at lcoletti@nd.edu