March 14, 2010

Fencing Sends Three Members to NCAA Championships

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Freshmen Beverly Yang and Adelaide McDonnell, as well as senior Katherine Thompson will continue their season at the NCAA Championships at Harvard after qualifying during the Northeast Regionals held yesterday in Providence, R.I.

Against a field composed of the Northeast region’s premier fencers, sabers Beverly Yang and Audrey Speer qualified for the final round of the NCAA Northeast Regional, finishing eighth and ninth, respectively, out of 49 fencers. Although Yang was initially seeded at 13 and Speer at 20, the duo gradually moved up the rankings throughout the day. Speer began the first round undefeated, while Yang finished the second round with a .833 winning percentage. In the third round, both earned promotion to the final round with .500 records. Yang and

Speer were the only two saber fencers to travel to Providence from Cornell.  Although Speer reached the nine-fencer cut off to qualify for the NCAA finals, regular season records were also taken into account this year, thus Speer ultimately finished 12th in the region and narrowly missed qualifying for the Championships.

In epee, the Red placed four of its five fencers in the final round of 12. Thompson finished fifth, while McDonnell and seniors Sallie Dietrich and Tasha Hall finished eighth, ninth and 10th respectively. However, since the top eight fencers from each region are able to qualify for each weapon, only Thompson and McDonnell will fence at Harvard.

While Thompson began the tournament seeded behind both freshman Christie Robinson and McDonnell, she retained her 2008 All-Ivy form all day, finishing fifth in a field of 51 fencers.

Although Hall and Dietrich qualified for an impressive third straight time for the final round of NCAA Regionals, both will end their season and fencing careers at Cornell on a bittersweet note as they will not be traveling to Harvard for the Championships, despite Dietrich finishing with a .833 record in the third round, and Hall ending with a .500 record in the same round.

In the foil weapon, the Red had a disappointing performance. Sophomore Rebecca Hirshfeld, Cornell’s only All-Ivy fencer, was eliminated in the second round with a .333 winning percentage, ending an otherwise outstanding 2009-10 campaign. While senior Dana Baines and junior Analise Peleggi qualified for the third round, both failed to make it to the final round of the regional competition.

With the majority of the nation’s finest fencers concentrated in the Northeast region, Yang, Thompson and McDonnell have already faced the bulk of the talent of college fencing. At next week’s NCAA championship rounds in Cambridge, Mass., all four will likely compete against fencers they have seen before.

For the freshmen, the NCAA Championship will be an exciting experience that will help these fencers to learn about competing at the biggest stage. While the experience will surely be nerve-wracking and tense, all three know that they have three more years to continue fencing for Cornell.

For Thompson, the NCAA Championships have a different context. At Harvard, Thompson will end her four-year college career under head coach Iryna Dolgikh. As  a co-captain of the Red, Thompson has had an impressive collegiate record, with an All-Ivy honor in 2008 and an NCAA Championship qualification. But despite these honors, the NCAA Championships at Harvard will surely be her most meaningful tournament yet, and may define her career as a Cornell fencer.

Original Author: Nathan James