Fencing: Provencal leads NU under-20s at USFA Junior Olympics

Sarah Kuta

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Every day after practice, freshmen Ariel Stein, Devynn Patterson and Camille Provencal can be spotted hanging out in Elder or eating dinner together. Though this is only their first year fencing at Northwestern, the trio is already proving themselves as potential frontrunners for the next three years by each finishing in the top 32 at this weekend’s competition.

The Wildcats competed at the USFA National Junior Olympics, an individual competition for fencers under 20, in Albuquerque, New Mexico this weekend. Provencal was the top fencer for the Cats, ending the tournament 20th out of 136 competitors in women’s foil.

NU had six top-50 finishes, including 24th place for Patterson, 32nd place for Stein and 43rd place for freshman Rebecca Grohman. Sophomore Sara Peck finished 46th for the epee team, and freshman Jill Mahen lead the sabre team, also finishing 46th.

“We definitely had a very prominent presence this weekend,” Patterson said.

Coach Laurie Schiller was pleased with the weekend, but said that it would have been nice for some of the NU fencers to reach higher rounds.

“The Junior Olympic weekend is designed for us to get more experience and hopefully get some excellent results,” Schiller said.

The Cats competed for placement in pool-style play and then went head-to-head with other fencers in a single elimination bracket. Each of the Cats moved past their pools to the direct elimination round.

“All of us were definitely capable of making it one or two rounds further,” Patterson said. “We were a little disappointed individually, but I think it was still a good performance. Northwestern was definitely represented.”

The team has been working to improve their mental concentration, which can often determine the outcome of a close match.

Provencal is looking ahead to the Midwest Conference Championships and NCAA Regionals and will be preparing for high-pressure, close-scoring situations.

“Getting mentally prepared isn’t something you can do in practice,” Provencal said. “It’s more during competitions. A lot of what happened this weekend was because I wasn’t mentally prepared or in my zone.”

Schiller said this weekend was important, but the Cats are already looking ahead.

“Remember, our main focus at this time of year is our NCAA post season,” he said. “That is what we are aiming for.”

Although they were in direct competition, being such a close-knit team helped the Cats to finish strong. Provencal and Patterson agreed that having close friends on the team for support helped boost the morale during competition.

“It helps to have them there,” Patterson said. “It just makes you feel more comfortable and more relaxed. I’m so excited to be able to train with these girls for the next three years. They are my best friends.”