Senior captain and foil specialist Ellyn Rajfer and sophomore epee-wielding Roopa Rangi left the rest of the Cornell fencing team last Friday and hopped on a plane to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport along with head coach Al Peters. The two women were the sole participants in the NCAA Fencing Championships at Kenosha, Wis. from East Hill.
Both women were invited to the field of 72 (24 in each weapon’s event) after their performances at the Regional Championships. It was the first time that either Rajfer or Rangi competed in the annual event. Both women placed 24th in their respective events.
“The NCAA tournament is a tremendously stiff competition,” Peters said. “Both Roopa and Ellyn had a little bit of nerves.”
The two fencers had 23 bouts as they faced off against every other competitor in their event, the majority of which took place on Saturday, the first day of competition.
Neither Rangi nor Rajfer was relaxed come tournament time. They suffered from jitters as they faced a field that included Olympians. Although the women had previously tilted with many of the opposing fencers, the novelty of the NCAAs impacted their composure.
“It was a little bit intimidating, but I felt more nervous than intimidated,” Rajfer said.
Rangi agreed with her teammate.
“It seemed a little overwhelming at first, but I knew I had earned my place [in the tournament],” she explained.
At the end of the first day, neither Cornellian won a bout, nevertheless both refused to relent.
“I was pleased with the way [Rajfer and Rangi] handled their frustration,” Peters said. “Once they got over their nerves, they had wonderful bouts.”
And Rajfer and Rangi shed their initial uneasiness to muster a few wins on Sunday.
“I beat a lot of people I wanted to beat,” said Rangi who defeated Ivy rivals from Penn and Columbia.
“It was a tough day on Saturday,” Rajfer admitted. “But [the competition] finished on a high note. We were happy with the overall performance.”
While the fencers bemoaned their last place finish, they were excited to participate in the elite event.
“Just to compete with world class champions is an honor,” Rajfer said.
For Rajfer, the NCAAs were an appropriate end to a stellar collegiate career. After three years of just missing the cut, she finally reached the esteemed event.
On the other hand, Rangi’s experience will prove valuable as the sophomore attempts to improve in her next two years in Ithaca.
This year marked the first year that Cornell sent more than one fencer to the NCAAs.
Archived article by Amanda Angel