Fencers Go Solo at Bladerunner Classic

    The UCSD fencing team hosted an individual competition, which included some of the world’s top fencers, at the Bladerunner Invitational on Jan. 5 and 6. (Will Parson/Guardian)

    FENCING — As the final warm-up before starting the official
    NCAA competition, UCSD fencers hosted their annual Bladerunner meet on Jan. 5
    and 6. Unlike most meets, Bladerunner
    was not a team contest but instead an open competition, where fencers
    represented themselves and their scores counted only toward their personal
    finish. This style allowed for UCSD to face off against other fencers that they
    would not normally see in intercollegiate play, providing preparation for the
    NCAA West Invitational coming up on Jan. 12-13 in Colorado Springs, Colo.

    Head coach Heidi Runyan said she thought that the unique
    challenges in the open competition created a more unique aspect to the meet.

    “Many of the opponents have more experience than the average
    collegiate fencer and there are direct elimination bouts that go to 15 touches,
    instead of the usual five,” Runyan said. “Fencing smart and being in good
    condition are even more important to success.”

    Sophomore Sean Blum, who finished sixth in epee, welcomed
    the new format and said that it would challenge him and his teammates while
    allowing them to fence without worrying about the team’s overall performance.

    “Because Bladerunner was an open event, it drew tougher
    opponents than we have had to fence in the SoCal intercollegiate conference, especially
    in men’s and women’s epee,” Blum said. “We have to fence a lot of
    strangers, which brings some nervousness, especially when the strangers
    are world-class fencers from Europe like Benoit Bouysset and Andrea
    Rentmeister.”

    The fencers that Blum alluded to are two of the fencing
    world’s top names, with Bouysset hailing from France and Rentmeister from
    Austria. Having this added level of elite competition helped stoke a fun but
    aggressive atmosphere at the meet, according to some of the participants.

    Senior Emily Lipoma took first place in women’s foil out of
    20 fencers, most of which were highly rated as either B- or C-tier fencers. In
    men’s saber, freshman Zach Jones notched a fantastic rookie performance with
    his first-place finish, with fellow Triton sophomore Bryan Kim taking third.

    The NCAA West Invitational in Colorado this weekend will be
    the first serious road trip of the season for UCSD, and will be a good
    transition from local meets to the competition that the Tritons will eventually
    be seeing at the National Championships in Columbus, Ohio, in March.

    “Traveling will certainly be a change,” Lipoma
    said. “The competition that we will face when we travel [to Colorado] will
    be much stronger than the competition we see in our Southern California
    conference. However, we will be traveling with a fairly seasoned team and
    traveling shouldn’t pose too much of a problem.”

    Sophomore saberist Anne Marie Schnecker, whose only loss at
    Bladerunner was to the eventual tournament champion, also said that the road
    trip will not hinder the team’s growing momentum and success.

    “With fencing, there is not really all that much advantage
    to fencing at home as opposed to fencing away, so I don’t think that Colorado
    will be too much of a challenge for us,” Schnecker said. “I heard … that it
    is pretty hard to breathe there because of the high elevation, so I think that
    could be the only difference. Besides that, I really think that we’ll do well
    at the meet.”

    Runyan is looking forward to facing off against some of the
    toughest schools in the country, a chance that is not often presented to her
    team in the Southern California Conference.

    “We really are looking forward to facing Stanford,” coach
    Runyan said. “They are a strong school, but we match up well against them and
    can take them if we are fencing sharp.”

    After the competition in Colorado Springs, the Tritons will
    look to their meets at the North American Cup in Atlanta on Jan. 18 and the
    Northwestern tournament in Chicago on Feb. 2 in order to start qualifying their
    fencers for NCAA Regionals.

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