Fencing: Dumas discusses her fencing start and Rio 2016

Sophomore Courtney Dumas competes during a dual. Dumas finished 15th in last years NCAA Championships in the epee competition.

Courtesy of Courtney Dumas

Sophomore Courtney Dumas competes during a dual. Dumas finished 15th in last year’s NCAA Championships in the epee competition.

Abbey Chase, Reporter

After wrapping up their regular season last weekend, the Wildcats will continue their push through the postseason, leading up to the NCAA Championships at the end of March. Northwestern will be defending an eighth-place showing and attempting to finish in the top-10 for a 14th straight year. Though she is only a sophomore, Courtney Dumas has already made her mark on NU fencing, finishing 15th in the epee competition at last year’s NCAA Championships, earning her first top-eight finish at a Division I event earlier this season and winning 80 percent of her bouts this season. The Daily caught up with Dumas to talk about how she got her start in fencing, her Olympic aspirations and coach Laurie Schiller’s habits on the road.

The Daily: How did you first get into fencing?

Courtney Dumas: My uncle fenced in college, and he, years back, took me to a Junior Olympic tournament when it was held in Cleveland. I remember sitting there watching Courtney Hurley fence and saying that I wanted to be able to do that. My brother and sister were off in the corner looking at the different swords, but I was really in awe of the sport. It was just so different from anything I’d ever done, and I just knew I wanted to do that.

Daily: Is there any reason you chose epee?

Dumas: I started out in foil actually and wasn’t very good at it. My style of fencing just suited epee better. I was tall and I liked to counterattack, and it was hard for people to get around that a lot when I was younger, so I just went with it.

Daily: Did you play any other sports growing up?

Dumas: I was 12, almost 13, when I started fencing, and believe it or not, there’s youth 10 events so people start a lot earlier, sometimes as early as 4. I was behind the game when I started so I had to make up a little bit of ground with that. I also played volleyball, basketball and softball at the time.

Daily: What is your favorite memory on the strip at this point in your career?

Dumas: There are a couple. One definitely was against Courtney Hurley this year when I beat her. I was down 4-2 with 13 seconds left and came back and tied it up and then won in overtime. This year when I made my first final-eight in Division I when I had to go through Anna Van Brummen, who’s at Princeton, and I beat (current U.S. No. 5) Lindsay Campbell right after that. That moment when I made the top eight was so exhilarating because I hadn’t expected it at all.

Daily: So will we be seeing you in Rio in 2016?

Dumas: I’m hoping. We’ll see how it goes. The April before the Olympics, the team is chosen, and it’s a combination of your four best domestic results and I believe two international results. It’s a process to go out there and do that, but that’s the goal. Right now I’m 12th on the list, so we’ll see. I was 40-something before London. Going into this year, I was 42nd on the list and with my finishes, I’ve jumped all the way to 12th.

Daily: Who are some of your favorite athletes?

Dumas: I’ve looked at what (Olympic gold-medalist) Mariel Zagunis does for determination. She just goes out there and works so hard and competes at every international event she can get out there for. Her going out there and fencing has just brought so much life to the sport. So many more people are seeing the sport just from her results. She didn’t mean to bring viewers to the sport. She just went out there. She’s someone that I really look up to. As far as other athletes, Michael Phelps is one of my favorite athletes to watch how he competes, how hard he works. It’s so much fun to watch the guy swim.

Daily: Finally, what’s something we don’t know about coach Laurie Schiller?

Dumas: He’s just a funny guy. He has these stacks of newspapers that he hasn’t gotten the chance to read throughout the week and he reads them all on our trips. He has these stacks everywhere of 10 different newspapers. He’s funny; he’ll be doing notes on the bus and he’s trying to figure out everything, and even if he’s lost his voice, he’s still trying to scream at the top of his lungs trying to coach us. He goes above and beyond to make sure that we’re enjoying ourselves and doing the best that we can.

Daily: Is it true that he is a Civil War re-enactor?

Dumas: Oh, he is.