The men’s club fencing team won its first national championship on April 3 at the USA Collegiate Club Fencing Championships, held at UNH in Durham, NH.
The club team has been active since 1994, when the men’s varsity team was eliminated due to lack of funding. Since then, a group of athletes have maintained Cornell’s fencing tradition through independent funding and personal effort.
“We’re just a hard working club,” said senior captain Matt Herndon. “We’re always looking for new fencers.”
The team practices five days a week during the season with the women’s varsity program and under the direction of the women’s coach Al Peters and club coach Andy Stewart. The Cornell club team competes as part of the Mid-Atlantic College Fencing Association, which provides opportunities to compete against other club teams as well as varsity programs. This year the Red finished with a 10-5 record against MACFA competition, good for fifth place among the participating programs.
“Compared to some varsity teams, they are just as good if not better,” Stewart said. “They would probably be in the bottom half of the Ivy League. They’re just a bunch of guys that like to fence and have a great enthusiasm for the sport.”
That enthusiasm paid off on April 3, when the men fought their way to the national club championship against 20 other teams from across the country.
The championships started off with a pool competition, where teams selected athletes to compete in the A, B, and C pools of epee, foil, and saber. From these general bouts, nine fencers are selected from each category to compete for the individual title. Only 27 athletes out of 150 qualify for the finals. Cornell was represented by six athletes in the finals, advancing two men in each category.
“It was time to go out and show everyone the program we think we are, which is the best in the nation,” Herndon said. “We got there focused, hunkered down and did what we had to do.”
In the epee category, Herndon fought to a second place finish. Sophomore Mike Klinger earned an eighth place finish. Together, Herndon and Klinger propelled Cornell to a first place finish out of all the squads competing in epee.
Freshman Longda Yin led the way for the Red in foil with a fourth place finish, while senior Oliver Lee added a strong performance, finishing seventh. This combined effort earned Cornell a fourth place finish among squads in the foil category.
In saber, senior Kris Teng finished fifth, and classmate Jason Lin was close behind with a sixth place showing. The Red finished fourth in this category as well.
The team combined for a 120-44 record in bouts at the national championship competition. The Red edged UMass by two bouts in the final standings to walk away with its first national club championship.
“This year we were focusing on the national championship,” Herndon said. “I felt we were the best in the nation but nobody knew it because we didn’t have the funding to travel to more competitions.”
Stewart agreed that the team’s focus and determination throughout the season came through at the national championships.
“[At nationals] they came together as a real team,” he said. “The format of the competition allowed them to coach each other and help each other. They were really determined, and they really wanted to win this one. They were real focused.”
Archived article by Olivia Dwyer
Sun Staff Writer