March 13, 2008

Fencing Sends Four Representatives to NCAAs

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This weekend, the fencing team will compete in the NCAA Championships at Ohio St. Unlike last year, when only one student competed, Cornell will be sending four fencers to the tournament: freshman Jessica Tranquada (foil), sophomores Sallie Dietrich (epee) and Tasha Hall (epee) and junior Alex Heiss (saber).
The women arrived in Ohio Wednesday evening, begin competition today and will conclude their tournament on Friday. While Cornell does not have a men’s team, the men from other schools will compete during the second half of the weekend.
The Red performed extremely well last weekend at the Intercollegiate Fencing Association (IFA) Championships and at the NCAA Northeast Regionals. With five top-10 finishes at the Regionals, four Cornell fencers qualified for Nationals.
“The IFA and Regionals were the best preparation for the NCAAs,” Hall said. “This week, practices were really light because we don’t want to exhaust ourselves, and we’re hungry to play when we actually do fence.”
When asked how the four fencers were feeling overall, Hall responded, “We’re feeling good. Right now, we’re like, wow, we’re in Ohio, but it hasn’t hit us yet. I mean, once we’ve finished checking in, and once we’ve seen the other fencers, then it will definitely hit us and suddenly we’ll be nervous. But we’re excited and we’re just going to try to do our best out there.”
The women certainly do have reason to be nervous, however, as the NCAA Tournament offers an opportunity to showcase the best talent not only across the United States, but also across the world. Many top fencing schools in the nation recruit international talent that will present difficult obstacles for the women poised to make deep runs.
Heiss is the only Cornell fencer who is a veteran of the NCAA Tournament, this being her third consecutive year competing. Last year, she finished 13th overall and missed All-American honors by two points, a statistic she does not take lightly nor easily forget.
“After missing becoming an All-American, I realized that every point actually does count,” Heiss said. “Last year what separated me from All-American was a matter of touches scored, not even victories. This year, I’m going to be fighting for every point. Looking down the list of names here, I know just about everyone, and I know what to expect.”
The girls are optimistic for Heiss, and the other three believe she has the best chance at going far in the tournament.
Nevertheless, Heiss believes the team’s success transcends just her experience.
“The girls have a lot of confidence and experience on the national level and this is just the continuation of that,” she said. “We’re hoping for some good results this year.”
Unfortunately for some, making the trip to Nationals represents a strong conflict of interest. Tranquada, a freshman architecture student, laments missing her first Dragon Day. Hopefully for her and the rest of the Big Red, the sacrifice of the quintessential Cornell experience will not be for naught.