Fencing: Squads take home gold, bronze at Junior Olympics

Senior foilist Dayana Sarkisova competes during the NU Duals. The Wildcats younger players competed in the Junior Championships over the weekend.

Daily file photo by Skylar Zhang

Senior foilist Dayana Sarkisova competes during the NU Duals. The Wildcats’ younger players competed in the Junior Championships over the weekend.

Abbey Chase, Reporter

Away from NCAA competition and their more experienced upperclassmen, Northwestern’s younger team members put up an impressive performance at the weekend Junior Olympic Championships, bringing home two team medals.

“I was pretty happy with the whole weekend,” coach Laurie Schiller said. “I thought the foil gals fenced great all weekend. Of course winning the gold in foil team and the bronze in the epee team was great for us, especially since we weren’t seeded No. 1 in either.”

Individual foil competition started off the weekend for the Wildcats, with freshman Mikela Goldstein earning the highest spot of any of her teammates all weekend with a seventh-place finish. Goldstein emerged from her pool 4-2 and fought her way through four close rounds in direct elimination, defeating teammate Jen Yamin 15-13 along the way, before falling in the quarterfinals.

“We’ve competed against each other in the past but that was before we were teammates,” Yamin said. “It was definitely weird fencing a teammate who I fence all the time in practice … but I try not to think about who I’m fencing but rather just look at my opponent as a general fencer and not really who the person is.”

The following day, Yamin joined forces with Goldstein and freshman Charlotte Sands to compete in the team foil competition. Unlike the collegiate format, team competition at the Junior Olympics features a 45-touch relay in which the three fencers sub out after every first-to-five-touch bout.

“It definitely changes the mentality a little bit because in a college match, if you have a couple of weaker kids and one stronger kid, you’re probably going to lose those weaker bouts, so you might lose 3-6,” Schiller said. “But in the 45-touch relay, that No. 1 person can come in, and she might score eight or nine touches in the time that she’s in, which would counterbalance that, so it can make a really big difference.”

The all-freshmen foil trio had little trouble handling its opponents, winning all three rounds by a margin of 15 points or more to take the gold. 

“This is the first time that Charlotte, Mikela, and I all fenced cohesively as a team together,” Yamin said. “We all knew what we had to do and we all worked together. If someone was having a bad bout, the next person up would pick it up for them, so I think we all worked really well together.”

While the foilists fought their way to the top of the podium, five epeeists competed in the individual competition. Though sophomore Courtney Dumas was the favorite from NU with a No. 7 seed, freshman Kaitlyn Wallace led the group with a 16th-place finish. 

“It’s always a tough tournament, and I think Courtney just got a little burned out with it,” Schiller said. “I think she’s getting to the point where she prefers the team stuff, and they did well as a team, and I think they all got into that a lot more.”

The following day, Dumas and Wallace teamed up with freshman Haley Hart to form NU’s sixth seeded Purple Squad in the team epee competition. The triad fell in the semifinals but came out in the bronze medal match to fence a dramatic bout against the Medeo Fencing Club that came down to the wire.

“It was a bit stressful because I did have a lead and then lost it, but at the end of the day, everyone is there supporting you, and you’re supporting them, and that just makes it all that much more worth it,” Dumas said. “I just knew that it was going to come down to this last touch, and that touch meant either we’d come out here and fenced all day and would go home without a medal, or I’d win that touch and we’d go home with a medal. In that moment, I knew that I was going to win that bout for my team.”

As the anchor epeeist, Dumas did not disappoint, putting up a clutch performance to seal the victory for NU and winning the deciding touch in overtime to defeat Medeo 45-44.

“When we went to priority, the one-touch sudden death, Courtney said, ‘I’m not losing this,’” Schiller said. “And she went after the other girl and smacked her and she won it, so it was quite an exciting ending.”