Five Academy fencers qualify for NCAAs
Air Force Academy had five fencers qualify for the NCAA Fencing Championships. Senior Jackson Ranes, juniors Jason Stockdale, Nate Smith, CJ Baran and sophomore Eliza Enyart all qualified for the 2006 NCAA Men's and Women's Fencing Championships, which will be held March 16-19 in Houston, Texas. The five Academy fencers qualified for the NCAAs during the Western Region Championships held at the Cadet Gymnasium on Saturday, March 4.
Fencers from Stanford University, UC San Diego, Cal State Fullerton and Caltech participated in the regional competition. "The seating for Air Force was not very high going into the Regionals, but in spite of this obstacle, our team managed to qualify five fencers for nationals," said head coach Abdel Salem.
In men's and women's epee, Ranes and Enyart were the Academy's two gold-medal winners and all together, the Falcons had nine fencers who finished among the top five spots. The Falcons top nine were Ranes (1st men's epee), Stockdale (3rd men's epee), Kai Anthony (4th men's epee), Tim French (5th men's epee), Enyart (1st women's epee), Brynn Thoreson (5th women's epee), Nate Smith (2nd men's foil), CJ Baran (2nd men's sabre) and Sam Bartron (4th men's sabre).
Ranes won the championship bout against Martin Lee from Stanford, 13-11, as time ran out for Lee. Enyart won the women's gold medal round, 15-11, against Chelsea Ambor from UC San Diego. Enyart is now a two-time NCAA qualifier. She made the trip in 2005, when she finished 18th in women's epee. Also returning to the nationals is Stockdale. The junior from Landsdowne, Penn., competed in 2004 (11th) and '05 (13th) in men's epee.
"I was very excited to win my first Regional tournament ever, and I don't think the competition could have been much stiffer. Although the men's epee competition was small, it packed a punch. Stanford brought three very good fencers and we fielded four fencers who were all contenders for winning the tournament, said Ranes. "I don't think I have had to fence harder to win a competition before, and I couldn't have done it with out the help of my coach, my team, my friends from Cadet Squadron 8 who came to watch, and my girlfriend."
"I am very excited to go to nationals in Houston, and my goal is to make All-American this year," commented Enyart. "I am disappointed with the new system which is not as team oriented, however, it is much like a North American Cup. It is much easier to have control over a 15 touch bout than it is to have over a five touch bout. In team competition, you can drop a bout here or there but in the new system, it is much more detrimental to do well in all of your bouts," she said after winning the women's epee Region Championship.
The major upset of the day was senior Tim French's loss to Air Force freshman Kai Anthony. Anthony thwarted French's chances for his fourth trip to the nationals when Anthony won their bout, 15-10, in men's epee.
"Our only disappointment was Tim's loss to Kai, which was a factor in Tim not qualifying for the nationals for the first time in four years," commented Salem. "Hopefully something will come of this that will be good for our team. Hopefully Kai will step into Tim's shoes next year and succeed him as a future NCAA qualifier."
The Coach Salem and the five Academy fencers will now get ready for the trip to Houston, Texas, for the NCAA Men's and Women's Fencing Championships, March 16-19.