March 3, 2004

Fencing's Phair Is Hardly Average

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Sophomore Meghan Phair could be the best thing that has ever happened to Cornell fencing.

The Long Island native first tried the sport in seventh grade, when her parents signed her up for lessons at a community recreation center.

“I immediately fell in love with it,” Phair said.

This was the first step for the All-America, All-Ivy athlete.

She went on to compete as an individual at high school meets and traveled on the US Fencing Association circuit of North America Cup competitions. She made the decision to fence for the Red in part because she wanted to major in architecture, one of Cornell’s most demanding academic programs.

“[College] was so overwhelming,” Phair said of her freshman year. “Fencing, architecture, the overnighters.”

But Phair rose to the challenge. In her first season on the hill, she posted an 11-4 record against Ivy League opponents and earned first team All-Ivy honors — the first member of a Red squad to earn first team honors since 1985. She went on to finish sixth at the NCAA National Championships, which earned her a spot on the All-America team. She was the first Cornell fencer to make All-America in 26 years.

“It was so unexpected, so incredible,” Phair said. “I didn’t know what to expect in college competition.”

The only drawback to such a successful freshman campaign is the pressure and expectations it creates for the next year.

“I set some pretty lofty goals,” Phair says of her sophomore campaign. “The problem with that is that opponents also set lofty goals.”

Despite the bulls-eye on her back, Phair has still managed to perform at a high level up to this point. She became the first Cornell fencer ever to win an individual championship at the Temple Open in her first competition of the year.

“That was my one main goal,” Phair said of the Temple Open. “I felt like I could take on the world.”

Maybe not the world, but Phair still prevailed this season. She earned second team All-Ivy honors with a 9-5 league record. Over the winter break, she won a North America Cup in San Jose, CA. And she wrapped up the regular season with a 31-9 overall record and an eleventh place finish at the IFA Championships last weekend.

“She is a tremendous fencer,” head coach Al Peters said. “She is coming out of a down period.”

Phair seems to be peaking at just the right time. Next weekend she and the Red will compete in the NCAA Regionals. Phair is aiming to make the trip to the National Championships a second time, and hopes that this year some of her teammates will join her in the competition.

Phair believes that Cornell fencing will only get stronger in the years to come, and she sees the same kind of improvement for herself. A national championship, a chance to compete in the Olympics, and a degree in architecture are all in her future plans.

“You can’t do it if you don’t love it,” Phair said of her rigorous schedule of athletics and academics. “There has to be enough people around you to remind you why you love it, fencing and architecture. Fencing is my life. If I could do it for the rest of my life, I would be the happiest person in the world.”

Archived article by Olivia Dwyer