Fencing: Fencing success runs in family for French sisters

Matt Forman

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Sophomores Christa and Kayley French are identical twin sisters that have been fencing together since they were 12 years old. But what do they make of the experience? For them, it’s nothing spectacular.

“We don’t really know what it’s like not to be twins,” said Kayley. “It’s more or less just like having a good friend on the team.”

A friend that is always there, Christa said. A friend that provides a support system, Kayley added without hesitation, finishing her sister’s sentence.

But just because the sisters are each other’s support systems, it does not mean they are not highly competitive while fencing.

“There’s definitely competition between us, but it helps in the end,” Kayley said. “It’s great because each of us wants to be the best.”

Even coach Laurie Schiller likes to get involved in the competition. Schiller said he thinks the French twins are equally good, but joked after practice that he can beat everyone except Kayley.

Individual achievements are nice, but humble Christa and Kayley agree that team success comes first.

“Right now if the team is successful, that is our big picture,” Christa said. “Our ultimate goal would be to win (Midwest) Conference Championships. Secondary goals, though, are to make it the NCAA finals, which is an individual competition anyway.”

Despite that fact, the twins’ list of accomplishments seems endless.

Last season, Christa went 9-1 at the conference championships, where she finished third en route to first-team All-Midwest Fencing Conference honors. Christa placed sixth in epée at the NCAA Championships, moving her overall record to 82-29.

Kayley earned second-team All-Midwest Fencing Conference accolades after placing fifth at the conference championships. She then placed 14th at the NCAA Tournament in epée. For the season, Kayley totaled 77 wins to just 34 losses, finishing the season on a 15-4 run.

Kayley’s momentum from last season has continued this season. She finished fifth in epée at the USFA North American Cup in Atlanta, Jan. 18-21.

Christa struggled at the same event with a nagging hamstring injury. The team travels today to New York for the NYU Duals on Saturday. Christa said, however, that the injury would not affect her this weekend.

“It’s all better,” Christa said. “I just found out that I’m good to go.”

Having the reigning second-team All-American healthy couldn’t come at a better time for Northwestern. The Wildcats will fence the nation’s top three teams in New York: Notre Dame, Ohio State and Columbia.

Following the team’s trip to New York, the Cats will fence in the NU Duals and then make two trips to South Bend, Ind., in less than a month. NU fences the top-ranked Fighting Irish at the Notre Dame Duals the second weekend in February, and will fence in the Midwest Conference Championships on the 23rd and 24th.

Reach Matt Forman at matthewforman2007@u.northwestern.edu.