March 7, 2006

Phair, Heiss Set for Nationals

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Two Cornell fencers won’t have to wait for Selection Sunday to find out if they’re invited to the Big Dance – senior Meghan Phair and freshman Alex Heiss earned bids to the NCAA championship with their performances at NCAA Regionals this past weekend in Boston, Mass.

Phair, the team’s captain, will represent the Red in epee, while Heiss will compete in the sabre field to cap her rookie campaign.

“It was a big shock, given that the competition was so strong,” Heiss said.

Phair punched her ticket for her third and final trip to NCAAs with a fourth-place finish in at Regionals. Phair is no stranger to success at the national championships, as she earned her first All-America honor after finishing sixth in her rookie debut in 2003. She was the first Cornell fencer to advance to a national semifinal bout in 2004, earning a fourth-place finish, as well as her second All-America honor. The only misstep in her illustrious career came when she failed to qualify for NCAA championships last season, due partly to a ninth-place showing at Regionals. She has an opportunity to earn Cornell’s first individual national title at this year’s event.

Heiss’ invitation to the national championships took a more convoluted route. She finished in 10th place at Regionals, and since only the top-eight fencers are extended bids, it seemed she would be staying home.

However, each school is limited to two fencers, which opened up another spot when Columbia was forced to drop its third qualifier. The final rankings that determine which fencers are given a bid are determined by a formula that measures an athlete’s rank, based 40 percent on their season’s record and 60 percent on their showing at the Regional tournament. Heiss’ work over the course of the season paid off, as her accumulated record was strong enough to push her into eighth-place overall in the region and earn her a bid to the national championships.

“It really seems like pretty good luck that I qualified,” Heiss said. “It’s an honor just to be going to the tournament.”

Sophomore Erica Waichman fell just short of joining Phair in the NCAA epee field, finishing in seventh place at Regionals. Her effort put her in 10th place overall in a region that handed out eight bids to the national championships.

Junior Ivana Zgaljic faltered in attempt to qualify for her third straight NCAA championships, placing 31st in sabre at the Regionals.

“The team’s been really helpful