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Fencing: Elite fencers prepare for national tournament

Joe Wirth | Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Irish continue their fall schedule this week as they participate in the North American Cup in Virginia Beach, Va.

The event is organized by USA Fencing and does not have any affiliation with the NCAA. Despite this fact and although the cup is not a team event, several of Notre Dame’s fencers are participating in order to gain experience and advance their national rankings. Among the Irish fencers participating in the event are freshman Lee Kiefer and Sarah Followill from the women’s team and senior Gerek Meinhardt from the men’s team.

Fencing is often an individualized sport, so many of the upperclassmen, like Irish seniors Jason Choy and William McGough, use this time in the early part of the season to help the freshmen get acclimated to the team aspects of collegiate fencing, Choy said.

“A few of our freshmen are very talented, including a 2012 Olympian,” he said. “I would say that the biggest thing I will try and help them out with is the team aspect of collegiate fencing. Fencing is a very individual sport and the NCAA college scene is probably the only time you are fencing for someone other than yourself.”

Because the Irish team is so talented and has such high expectations, the athletes need to make sure they stay focused on the task at hand, Choy said.

“The biggest thing to watch out for early in the season is to make sure we don’t celebrate early,” he said. “As talented as this team is, the competition has also gotten deeper. We need to practice hard from beginning to end – this season will definitely be a tough one.”

McGough echoed these sentiments and added that early-season tournaments, whether team or individual, help the team come together.

“Early in this preseason, our team is establishing its identity – finding its voice,” McGough said. “With such a talented group, leaders are not always obvious. And so, I am glad to see some of my teammates beginning to establish themselves as leaders in their respective events as well as across the entire team.”

This weekend’s North American Cup is one of the biggest fencing competitions in the country. There are a total of 1,924 fencers competing across 18 divisions during the four-day tournament.

The competition will begin at 8 a.m. Friday and will continue through Monday at the Virginia Beach Convention Center in Virginia Beach, Va.

Contact Joe Wirth at [email protected]