Fencing: Seven freshmen compete at Junior Olympics


Daily file photo by Brian Meng

A Northwestern fencer moves forward. The Wildcats competed this weekend in Denver

Stephen Council, Reporter


This season, Northwestern’s freshmen have been a force to be reckoned with. For one weekend, it was all about them.

The No. 2 Wildcats sent seven freshman fencers to the Junior Olympics in Denver this weekend. Early struggles and altitude sickness proved difficult to deal with, but the group came back with some solid results.

At the meet of fencers under 20 years old, Robyn Song took 43rd in the sabre event. In epée, Maggie Snider brought back 52nd, Emma Scala 55th and Natalie Kim tied for 107th. Alyssa Chen led the foilists with a 22nd place finish, with Elina Moon in 132nd and Jerrica Liao in 149th.

The individual competition meant a return for the fencers to the 15-touch bouts they fenced throughout their youth. With collegiate bouts only going to five touches, the shift required some adjustment. After the event, coach Zach Moss said he liked what he saw.

“It’s a very different experience from what we’re used to all season,” Moss said. “But they handled it well. They’re all very experienced fencers, they knew what they were doing.”

Moss said that fatigue was a bit of an issue in the initial matchups, especially with midterms week just passed. At the Junior Olympics, fencers face six competitors in pool play, which seeds them for the direct elimination bracket.

Chen and Song led the Cats with five wins each in pool play, earning byes to start the direct elimination round. Chen then made it through two bouts but fell in her third. After being eliminated, she said the altitude troubled her.

“I got tired way quicker than I should have, and that definitely was my downfall in the end there,” she said.

While Moss was able to devote more time to each individual fencer than at a typical meet, he also had some help. Chen, among others, had both him and her club coach from home in attendance. Because of the stature of the competition at the event, Moss said he took some time to recruit high schoolers there.

“It’s a chance for us coaches to get to see a lot of prospective student-athletes who are competing. See how they compete, see how they interact with their coaches, see how they interact with their teammates, see how they respond to challenges,” he said. “It’s a really good environment for us to be able to see that, and evaluate potential recruits.”

With 12 freshmen and nine sophomores on the roster, the Cats are already stacked with young talent. Snider, who also lost in her third direct elimination bout this weekend, leads the freshmen with 35 wins this year, the third-highest total on the team.

Snider said that this weekend, she dug a hole for herself and wasn’t in the right headspace for all her bouts. With Moss and her club coach in attendance she made it out of the pool round seeded 82nd, and climbed to 52nd for her final result.

Looking forward to the postseason, which starts Feb. 23 at the Midwest Conference Championships, she said she wants to work on focusing from the first touch. Despite not really knowing what to expect, she said she’s looking forward to starting the postseason off next weekend.

“I’m definitely super confident in the team’s abilities, and we’ve been having a fantastic season so far,” she said. “We’re gonna crush it, for sure.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @stephencouncil

Related Stories:
Fencing: Northwestern will send seven freshmen to Junior Olympics