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Fencing 101: The Thrill of Earning National Points in Fencing

01/02/2024, 9:00am CST
By Bryan Wendell and Michael Aiken

What exactly are national points? Why do they matter? How are they earned? And how long do the points I earn stay with me? We’ve got those answers and more as we work to demystify fencing for families.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Blades clash, the scoring machine beeps and the crowd cheers. Winning feels incredible, but for the victorious fencer, the thrill doesn’t end when the medal ceremony concludes. 

At USA Fencing tournaments, competitors vie for more than just medals. They’re after National Points, a kind of currency in fencing and the way USA Fencing determines athlete rankings, tournament seeding and team selection for international competitions like World Cups, Zonal Championships, World Championships and even the Olympic Games.

What Exactly Are National Points?

Think of National Points as your fencing passport. You’re accumulating stamps as you compete at national USA Fencing competitions throughout the season. The better you finish, the more points you earn.

And like a passport, these points can grant you entry into some of fencing’s top destinations.

As their name implies, National Points are primarily earned at USA Fencing's seven national competitions, held each year from October to July. (One important note: As you’ll read further down, fencers can also earn National Points, albeit at a reduced rate, at SYCs and SJCCs.)

A typical National Tournament calendar might look like this, with national points available at each across various age categories:

  • October North American Cup

  • November North American Cup (in 2023, we hosted both a November NAC and a Division I December NAC)

  • January North American Cup 

  • Junior Olympics

  • March North American Cup

  • Division I Championships/April North American Cup

  • July Challenge/Summer Nationals

How Do I Earn National Points?

The big-picture formula is simple. The bigger the field and the better your finishing position, the more points you’ll earn. 

The ultimate goal: To secure a spot among the top 64 in a field of 160 or more fencers, which grants you those coveted points. But remember, if there are fewer than 160 participants in an event, only the top 32 earn points.

Which Age Categories Can Earn Points?

It’s important to note that the Division I-A and Division II categories do not offer national points as those events are exclusively regional categories outside of the championship events held at Summer Nationals. 

National points are earned in the following age categories:

  • Youth-10

  • Youth-12

  • Youth-14

  • Cadet (Under 17)

  • Junior (Under 20)

  • Division I (Over 13)

  • Veteran 40-49 (V40)

  • Veteran 50-59 (V50)

  • Veteran 60-69 (V60)

  • Veteran 70-79 (V70)

  • Veteran 80+ (V80)

  • Vet Combined

  • Parafencing 

How Long Do I Keep My National Points?

National Points stay with you for a while, but they don’t last forever. They stick around until the replacement competition is held, which is usually about a year later when the same event rolls around again. This system ensures that your rankings reflect your most recent exploits on the strip.

If you want to confirm this “Replacement Schedule,” check section 3.1.2 of the Athlete Handbook.

Why Chase National Points?

Beyond glory, National Points determine your seeding in future competitions. They're your ticket to national championship events such as Junior Olympics, Division I Championships, and Summer Nationals, and they can even lead to you competing at the international level. For the full breakdown, the Athlete Handbook is your go-to manual, with chapters 3-13 laying out everything you need to know.

Although not the sole determining factor, national points are also useful to have for those high school fencers who are looking to continue their fencing career and compete in college, as NCAA programs often use national points as a tool to evaluate a fencer’s current ability and capabilities.

How to See Where You Stand

Curious about where you stand? The USA Fencing website has the leaderboard, keeping you updated on your National Points tally and rankings.

How Many Points Did I Earn at This Recent Tournament?

It depends on your category. Each category has a different set of points. Check out the point tables in the Appendix of the Athlete Handbook. The Domestic Point Tables start on page 92.

For example, you’d earn 280 points for finishing 31st in Division I at a NAC, while that same finish in a Junior event would net you 168 points.

And remember, the size of the field matters. If there are 159 fencers or fewer, only the top 32 get points.

How Are Point Totals Calculated? Do I Just Add Up All My Points?

This is a common misconception. You don’t just add up your points. 

Chapter 3 of the Athlete Handbook explains the method for the domestic portion of points, and chapters 6-13 explains the point calculations for senior, junior, cadet, veteran and parafencing in detail.

For example, point standings for Cadet Junior, and Senior fencers are based on a combination of two groups: Group I and Group II. In general, Group I reflects domestic point tournaments while, in most cases, Group II reflects international competitions.

Beyond the National Stage: SYC and SJCC Tournaments

The fencing odyssey doesn’t end at national events. Super Youth Circuit (SYC) and Super Junior and Cadet Circuit (SJCC) tournaments offer another opportunity to earn points. 

Super Youth Circuit

  • Youth fencers may participate in one or more Super Youth Circuit tournaments per season. However, only the competition where the fencer earns the most points in each age category (one best result) will be included in the points standings. We do this to ensure that no fencer can gain a competitive advantage because of their location or ability to travel to multiple tournaments each year. 

  • Points earned at SYC events do not necessarily stay on the points list for one year. SYC points are replaced by order of events. For example, the fifth SYC that takes place in the 22-23 season will be replaced by the fifth SYC that takes place in the 23-24 season. Usually this ends up being a year, but there are times where the replacement may be a month or so before the year anniversary.

  • National Points earned at SYC events are worth 0.8 (80%) of points awarded at national tournaments.

Super Junior and Cadet Circuit

  • Similar to SYCs, only the single best result in each age category is counted in the revised National Points Standings.

  • National Points earned at SJCCs are worth 0.4 (40%) of points awarded at national tournaments.

Tag(s): Updates