With many of her classmates sitting on sandy beaches, freshman Meghan Phair found herself sitting in Ithaca last Thursday, waiting to leave for the NCAA fencing championships. Still, the blizzard-like conditions that buried Colorado last week did not bury Phair’s hopes. The epee fencer eventually made it to the tournament, taking sixth place and All-American status when the weekend ended.
“It was a bit of a relief because it had been a very hard competition,” said Phair of her wins. “It was certainly a relief, but it was also kind of sad to know that it was over.”
The freshman phenom started her odyssey last Friday, and was in fifth place after the day’s bouts. Still, while her 10-4 record on the day was impressive, it was also deceiving. In several matches, Phair found herself going down to the wire with the nation’s best epee fencers.
“There were about five bouts that were tied when time ran out,” Phair noted. “I just had to buckle down because I needed the wins.”
And buckle down she did. Phair continued the competition the following day, compiling a 15-7 record when all was said and done. Besides being Cornell’s first All-American fencer in 26 years, Phair also found a smaller personal victory against an Ivy-foe.
In her last bout, Phair faced Princeton’s Kira Hohensee, someone she had already lost to twice during the regular season. This time, however, the freshman prevailed.
“I had actually been fencing Kira for about four or five years, and this season I had a lot of trouble beating her,” said Phair. “Since I had done poorly the previous round, I knew I had to buckle down and win this bout. I just settled down and focused and got things right, beating her for the first time all season.”
Perhaps even more amazing than the freshman’s finish is her all-star juggling act. Besides being an NCAA athlete, Phair is also a student in the College of Art, Architecture and Planning. Even more astonishing is that she prepared for nationals during the strenuous week leading into Dragon Day.
For Phair, the belief is that the most important training has already occurred.
“You really have to love it,” she said of the sport. “A lot of it comes from training before you were in college. It’s very difficult to come in as a walk-on on the team and become a champion.”
Phair will continue to train during the off-season, with hopes of finishing well at the summer nationals. When not in the studio, she plans on doing plenty of cardiovascular workouts to stay in shape.
As for next season, the All-American has two goals — one for herself and one for her teammates.
“I hope to see myself in the top three next season. I’d really like to make All-American first team next year,” she said. “And next year I hope that there will be more Cornell fencers joining me at the national championships.”
Archived article by Matt Janiga