Fencers Finish 13th After Solid Showing at National

    FENCING — The UCSD fencing team traveled to Columbus, Ohio,
    March 13 to 16 for the NCAA National Championships and had to deal with more
    than just the nation’s best fencers en route to its 13th-place finish. Beyond
    having 23 bouts in just two days to determine the final national rankings, the
    Tritons had to fight through the first half of the meet with borrowed gear, as
    the airline lost their luggage. Despite the trying circumstances, UCSD tallied
    44 overall points during the four-day meet, finishing only a few points away
    from the top 10.

    Leading the way for the Tritons was senior epeeist Chelsea
    Ambort, whose 11 wins were good enough to earn her a 16th-place finish. Right
    behind Ambort was junior epeeist Heather Stephenson, who won eight bouts to
    place 17th nationally. Rounding out the women’s side were sophomore foilists
    Florence Lee and senior Emily Lipoma, who finished 21st and 22nd, respectively.

    “This year, even though I didn’t place as high as I did in
    previous years, I was very happy with my results,” said Ambort, who had
    previously placed 18th and 10th. “I had hoped for 12th or above, to earn
    another All-American title, but it was a long shot and I was very happy. I
    mean, in perspective, to end up in the top third in the nation isn’t small
    potatoes. I fenced my best, and when I look back, I don’t think that I could
    have done better and I am proud of that.”

    For the men, freshman foilist Benjamin Dorn had a fantastic
    finale to his rookie season, finishing in 18th place. Another gutsy
    underclassmen, sophomore saberist Bryan Kim, placed 22nd, showing great promise
    for the future of UCSD fencing. The six fencers who competed at nationals were
    the highest number in school history and a sign of UCSD fencing’s ascent as a consistent
    contender at the national level.

    “It was really exciting because of how well the event was
    run,” Ambort said. “Since fencing usually isn’t seen as a serious sport by the
    public, it is great to participate in an event that is so official. If someone
    saw fencing for the first time at nationals, they would know that fencing is
    just as serious as any other NCAA sport.”

    The women fenced during the first two days of the national
    championships, which unfortunately were the same two days the airline took to
    return the lost equipment. UCSD was forced to use borrowed gear from the Ohio
    State University

    team and buy cheap cheerleading shoes from Wal-Mart for the first two rounds of
    the competition.

    “It was very difficult to begin both the day and the
    tournament in borrowed equipment and uniforms,” Lipoma said. “But because the
    challenge was an obvious one, the women were able to overcome it and work all
    the harder to focus on the fencing.”

    As the pinnacle of collegiate fencing, the NCAA National
    Championship is formatted in such a way that each competitor must fence 23
    bouts over two days, a very exhausting task — but one that the Tritons were
    able to attack head-on.

    “Another challenge of nationals was maintaining focus and a
    high level of fencing throughout the day no matter how intimidating the
    opponent might be,” Lipoma said. “The atmosphere the first day was much more
    relaxed than the second; the second day of fencing did not allow much room for
    error in the rankings. Having my teammates there greatly helped motivate me
    through the large number of bouts each day.”

    As a senior member of the UCSD fencing team at nationals,
    Ambort had some extra motivation to finish her collegiate career on the
    strongest note possible.

    “During the second day, near the end when all the other
    competitors get tired too, it is more about will power than anything,” Ambort
    said. “I had to tell myself not to hold back anything. In the last round of the
    day, they weren’t just my last bouts of the season, but the last bouts of my
    fencing career at UCSD. I just went all out and it paid off.”

    With a historic season completed, head coach Heidi Runyan
    can be sure to look forward to building momentum off of this year’s success for
    next season. Although the graduating seniors will be sorely missed, the Triton
    squad has an excellent mix of eager young players and returning veterans that
    are sure to show up in force again next March for the 2009 national
    championships.

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