Irish to fence at national qualifier
Rebecca Rogalski | Friday, January 17, 2014
After months of training and anticipation in the fall, Notre Dame will open its season with the North American Cup (NAC) this weekend in Virginia Beach, Va.
This competition is a national tryout for the United States fencing team, organized by the United States Fencing Association.
“Our fencers, who represent themselves individually, will be confronted by all the best fencers across North America,” Irish coach Janusz Bednarski said. “The most talented fencers from countries such as Mexico and Canada will be competing in the NAC, and will challenge the Irish fencers in this continental competition.”
Bednarski hopes to achieve success by utilizing his wealth of talented fencers.
“A lot of our top fencers are coming into this tournament with the goal of placing in the final eight to qualify for the United States national fencing team,” Bednarski said.
For the men’s group, senior Gerek Meinhardt will fence along with senior Ariel DeSmet and freshman Kristjan Archer. Other top performers for the Irish men include sophomores Garrett McGrath and John Hallsten and senior Kevin Hassett, rounding out a group Bednarski said he believes is the strongest group on the men’s side.
For the women’s group, sophomore Lee Kiefer, a 2012 Olympian and NAC gold medalist, will be followed by junior Maddie Zeiss, 2012 NAC bronze medalist, as strong competitors in the tournament. Junior Ashley Severson and sophomore Johanna Thill are also expected to preform well this weekend.
“This is a highly touted group that will most likely fence for the NAC competition finals,” Bednarski said.
As the Irish prepare for this weekend’s competition, Bednarski said each fencer is encouraged to identify their individual strengths and weaknesses and put forth a plan of action to improve themselves in both aspects. He harps upon the importance of staying healthy both mentally and physically this early in the season.
“It is important for us that the players suffer no injuries, that the team gets to the tournament on time with no complications, and most importantly, that each player can overcome the feelings of excitement and nervousness that tend to happen in the first competition of the season,” Bednarski said. “We have a young group of fencers this year in comparison to last year, so I hope that they can get over this barrier of anxiousness and that they do not let the hype get to them.”
Despite these minor difficulties, the Irish aim to succeed at the NAC competition, whether the fencers end up placing, qualifying for the United States fencing team, or simply getting more fencing experience at the national level.
“To be extremely successful, we have to be very strong,” Bednarski said. “The top fencing institutions in the country are practicing like we are, but with an intense devotion, emotion, and wish to beat us.”
The Notre Dame fencing team has consistently been ranked as one of the top three fencing teams in the nation for the past four years, and the team strives to uphold its position by preforming at a high level this weekend.
“To be strong is a multifactorial case: one aspect involves wit, another involves preparation, and the final aspect involves overcoming emotional states and making this competition a learning experience as well,” Bednarski said. “Through implementing these three key components, we will no doubt achieve success this weekend.”
Contact Rebecca Rogalski at [email protected]