Ranes and Enyart named Fencing team MVPs
Senior Jackson Ranes was named the 2006 Most Valuable Fencer - men. Ranes concluded his career at the Academy as a member of the Academy's 2006 NCAA Men's and Women's Fencing Championship squad. Ranes finished 14th in men's epee. He was a gold medal winner in the 2006 NCAA Western Region Championships. He is a two-year letterman and was this year's co-captain.
Sophomore Elizabeth Enyart was named the Most Valuable Fencer - women. She finished the season as the Academy's first women's fencer to earn All-American honors. Enyart finished 11th at the 2006 NCAA Men's and Women's Fencing Championships. In the women's epee finals, Enyart won 52 percent of her bouts. She qualified for the nationals during the Western Region Championships, winning the women's gold medal round. This was her second trip to the championships, she finished 18th in 2005.
The 2005-06 Fencing season concluded on a high note with five fencers qualifying for the 2006 NCAA Men's and Women's Fencing Championships in Houston, Texas, March 16-19. The Falcons' qualifiers were senior Jackson Ranes, juniors Jason Stockdale, Nate Smith and CJ Baran and sophomore Eliza Enyart.
At the annual Nick Toth Open in September several fencers finished in the top 8. In the women's foil division, sophomores Mryamn Ruth and Collette Bannister tied for third place. Sophomore Kara Thoreson finished in sixth place. Freshman David Fang finished in sixth place, while senior Kent Morgan placed 10th in the mixed foil division. Junior Sean Andrews finished 12th, followed by freshman Trent Atwood in 16th place.
In October, the Falcons traveled to the first North American Cup (NAC) tournament of the season in Miami. USAFA's sophomores Katie Gulczynski, Fred Meyer and Adam Schenk, freshmen Trent Atwood, Fang, and junior Lydia Bigelow, made the trip. Gulczynski, Bigelow, Meyer, and Schenk had a top 20 finish in their respective weapons.
"Some of our fencers did well for the opening competition of the season," said assistant coach Adam Skarbonkiewicz. "Some fencers did fairly well, and others not as well as we hoped. But we learned a lot about what areas we need to work on. It was a good learning experience."
"We learned a lot from this tournament and are looking forward to working hard at it in practice," said Bigelow.
The Falcons competed in three events at home, the Nick Toth Open, Falcon Open and the NCAA Western Region Championships. On October 29-30, Falcons hosted the Falcon Open. The two-day open concluded with freshman Julie Luce as the women's foil champion. Sophomore Collette Bannister and Luce advanced to the championship round in foil. Luce won their bout, 15-13. Bannister was the women's runner-up followed by Ruth and freshman Kristen Bevins who tied for third place. In the men's foil, senior Jackson Ranes tied for third place. "I was also impressed with the level of competition at both the Nick Toth Open and the Falcon Open as the level of competition gets tougher each year," said Ranes.
In the Falcon Open, four fencers won their individual events at the Falcon Open, senior Sam Bartron, men's sabre, Gulczynski, women's sabre, Enyart, women's epee and Luce, women's foil. The sabre and foil teams did what they were supposed to do, according to head coach Abdel Salem. "The epee team finished short of my expectations. However, it was good to see Eliza have such a strong finish in women's epee," he continued.
In November, Enyart and Adam Schenk; freshmen Dale Hargis and Kai Anthony (men's epee); Atwood (foil); sophomores Ruth, Kara Thoreson and Bannister (foil) and freshman Nick Bente (sabre) gained valuable experience in the NAC "B" Juniors competition held in Albuquerque, N.M., Nov. 11-13. Enyart was the only Air Force woman to finish in the top 24. She finished 19th of 116 in epee. While most of Falcons' did not finish as high as Salem would have liked, the fencers did gain valuable experience.
The Falcons had only two NCAA dual meets scheduled for 2005-06. On Nov. 19-2, the Falcons traveled to Northwestern University, Chicago, Ill, for the first dual meet. In the Northwestern University dual match up with the Wildcats, University of North Carolina, Wayne State, Cleveland State, Detroit University, Lawrence University, Johns Hopkins, Michigan State and Michigan University, the USAFA men's teams finished, 9-0, overall against their opponents, while the women's teams went 4-5 for the weekend.
A quick recap of the scores follows:
Following a short break between tournaments, the Falcons resumed competition on Dec. 9-11 when they traveled to Pittsburgh, Pa., to compete in the NAC Division I tournament. The Falcons struggled to make it into any of the top spots of the tournament. Junior Jason Stockdale was the Falcons' top finisher in the men's epee division. He finished 25th among 199 competitors. Anthony followed in 33rd place, which was a season-best finish in his NAC competition.
"Kai's finish is a good start for a freshman," said Salem. "Jason also had a good finish as did most of the other guys; unfortunately that was not the case for our two women." "It's great that we have three fencers going to the Junior Olympics, I am hoping that the additional experience will help us when we compete at the Regionals in March. Without experience we will be hard pressed to make it to the NCAAs this year."
Following the winter break, the fencers competed in the NAC Div. I in Houston, Jan. 13-16. Senior Tim French finished sixth out of 215 in men's epee, while Stockdale finished in 31st place. Also competing were seniors Ranes, who finished tied for 47th place, and Bartron, who competed in men's sabre, finished 55 out of 113.
The team traveled to California. in February for the second NCAA dual meet at UC San Diego to compete against Western Region rivals Cal Fullerton, Caltech, Stanford and UC San Diego. The meet also included Army and Notre Dame. The men's team went 4-2, while the women's teams finished 3-3. While the women's foil team is usually AFA's weakest, the Falcons came on strong against its Region opponent, San Diego, to finish 6-3.
At the 2006 Junior Olympics, Feb. 17-20, Enyart and Anthony were AFA's top finishers. In the junior women's epee tournament, Enyart finished second among 170 competitors. "This was my best finish thus far, but I was somewhat disappointed because the goal was to be number one," commented Enyart. In junior men's epee, Anthony, from Dallas, Texas, finished seventh among 234. "This was my last junior event, and I'm happy with how I finished, but I wish I had focused in the last few bouts and managed a championship," said Anthony. Also competing in the men's epee tournament was Schenk and Hargis. Schenk finished 16th and Hargis finished 64th. Freshman Nicholaus Bente finished 67th among 173 competitors in junior men's sabre.
The team then turned its attention toward hosting the 2006 NCAA Western Region Championship, March 4. Fencers from Stanford University, UC San Diego, Cal State Fullerton and Caltech participated in the regional competition. The seeding for Air Force was not very high going into the Regionals, but in spite of this obstacle, USAFA qualified five fencers for nationals. 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 in the top eight: Ranes (1st men's epee), Stockdale (3rd epee), Anthony (4th epee), Tim French (5th epee), Enyart (1st women's epee), Brynn Thoreson (5th epee), Nate Smith (2nd men's foil), CJ Baran (2nd men's sabre) and Bartron (4th sabre).
Ranes won the championship bout against Martin Lee from Stanford, 13-11, as time ran out on the clock. Enyart won the women's gold medal round, 15-11, against Chelsea Ambor from UC San Diego. "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, friends from Cadet Squadron 8 who came to watch."
"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 teammate 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."
Five fencers qualified for the 2006 NCAA Men's and Women's Fencing Championships. Ranes, Stockdale, Smith, CJ Baran and Enyart all qualified. Enyart became a two-time NCAA qualifier; she made the trip in 2005 and finished 18th in women's epee. Also returning to the nationals was Stockdale (2004 -11th and '05 -13th) in men's epee. Due to prior USAFA military commitments Smith could not compete in Houston.
Later in March, junior Lydia Bigelow from Phoenix, Ariz., captured the Division III Women's Epee title at the NAC in Reno, Nev. Bigelow placed first among the 57 competitors. She also finished in eighth place in the Division II foil tournament. In Division III men's sabre, AFA's Ryan Zaccagnini finished 37th, while Brent Watson finished 50th among 58 competitors. Adam Otten competed in the Div. II men's foil. "Bigelow was struggling in some of her earlier matches, barely defeating her opponents. But in the gold medal match after she was behind, 4-2, she started to fight like a lion. It was the best I have ever seen her fence," said Salem.
2006 NCAA Men's and Women's Fencing Championships: In the finals Enyart finished in 11th place in epee with 12 victories winning .522 percent of her bouts. Her placement in the NCAAs earned her the distinction of being the first USAFA woman to earn All-American status in fencing. Stockdale won .609 percent of his bouts with 14 victories to finish in eighth place, earning second team All-American honors in epee. After round four of the competition, Ranes, who was in fifth place, fell to 14th place with 11 victories. Baran finished in 23rd place in the men's saber competition. USAFA's four-member squad placed 15th with an overall 38 points in the team standings.
"I had a very good first day finishing in sixth place, but in day two I had some tough bouts, dropping to 11th," said Enyart. "Eliza fenced very well, and I was proud of her composure throughout the tournament, commented Salem.
The Falcons finished overall 13-2 (men) and 7-8 (women) and 15th in the NCAA.