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Junior Men’s Epee and Women’s Foil Team Named at the Junior Olympics in Salt Lake City

02/18/2012, 7:58am CST
By No Author

(Salt Lake City, Utah) – The first two weapon squads were named for the 2012 Junior World Championship Team at the conclusion of the opening day of competition at the Junior Olympic Fencing Championships in Salt Lake City on Friday.

The Junior and Cadet World Championships will be held from March 31 – April 8 in Moscow, Russia and the top three athletes in the National Team Points Rankings at the conclusion of the junior events this weekend will be named to each team.

In a hotly contested men’s epee race, top-ranked Alexander Eldeib (Burke, Va.) was mathematically qualified to compete on his first Junior World Team after fencing at the Cadet Worlds in both 2010 and 2011.

Although Joseph Rafidi (Hidden Hills, Calif.) lost in the table of 32 to Sam Freiman (Spring, Texas), 15-12, he held onto his #2 slot to qualify for his first Junior World Team as well.

The third slot, however, remain up for grabs throughout the day as several athletes moved in and out of contention.

Spencer Amann (Westminster, Colo.) came into the weekend ranked third in the team standings, but a 15-11 loss in the table of 32 to Joseph Wiley (Houston, Texas) meant Amann would have to watch the points calculations unfold from the sidelines as he waited to see if anyone would pass him in the rankings.

But it was 19-year-old Dylan Nollner (Ogden, Utah), competing in front of his hometown crowd, who proved to be the spoiler for the event.

A sophomore at Duke University, Nollner was ranked seventh going into the event uncertain of whether it would be possible for him to qualify for the team and said he chose not to think about it.

“I didn’t really come into today trying to do well in the points or anything.  I made a conscious effort not to think about points at all so I guess that’s what carried me through,” Nollner said.

Although he said he wasn’t thinking about it, his family and friends clearly were as someone told him right before the start of his semifinal against Eldeib that a top-four finish had just qualified him for the team – a statement made in error, as, in fact, he really needed to win the semifinal to secure the slot.

“They came after me when I was going into my semifinal bout and told me I’d already made the team.  Turns out that wasn’t the case. So I was still trying not to think about it because if I would have let it get into my head, then I would’ve been done and then I would’ve killed them,” Nollner laughed.

With the pressure off to qualify – or so he thought – Nollner entered the semfinals against Eldeib who is ranked #1 in both the cadet and junior rankings.

“Ace beat me at the Junior NAC in Austin, 15-14 or 13. He would basically wait for me to flick with a counterattack and then close the distance really well. So I made a big effort to keep a very simple game. I went in and out and then, when I saw the right time, I’d just close the distance,” Nollner said.

The plan worked well and Nollner won the bout, 15-12, to qualify for the team.

“Qualifying for Junior Worlds is kind of like redemption, to be honest.  I kind of had the exact same thing happen when I was a cadet.  I was #3 and someone took second and it kicked me off the squad. It’s kind of the same situation now and it feels great to have finally made it,” Nollner said.

In the gold medal bout, Nollner faced Garrett McGrath (Maricopa, Ariz.), a 16-year-old who was out of the points race for the junior team, but is a top candidate for the cadet team.

McGrath won the bout, 15-12, to win his first gold medal in a junior event and solidify his #2 position in the cadet rankings going into the cadet event which will be held on Sunday.

“It affected me a little in the final.  My legs were on the verge of cramping all day and I took it a little easier in the finals than I should have.  It would have been cool to win at home for sure, but I’m still happy,” Nollner said.

Alternate positions also were named for the junior men’s epee with Amann, McGrath and Wiley earning first, second and third positions, respectively.

In the junior women’s foil, all three slots on the Junior World Team were already qualified by athletes whose positions in the rankings were high enough going into the weekend that none of the three qualifiers competed in Salt Lake. Each of the three athletes is traveling through Europe on the Senior World Cup circuit as they each vie for a position on the 2012 Olympic Team and so none were in attendance this weekend.

The trio who made history in 2011 with a 1-2-3 finish at the Junior Worlds will be back in Moscow as well.

Senior World medalist Lee Kiefer (Lexington, Ky.) took the #1 position, followed by 2011 Pan Am Games silver medalist Nzingha Prescod (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and 2011 Division I National Champion Margaret Lu (Greenwich, Conn.)

In 2011, Prescod defeated Kiefer to win gold and Lu took the bronze. With a wealth of senior experience under their belts during the past year, the three athletes are favored to make another run at the individual medals in April and hope to improve on their silver medal team finish.

Ranked 14th in junior women’s foil team standings going into the weekend, 17-year-old Niki McKee (Valley Stream, N.Y.) won her first gold medal as a junior on Friday.

A bronze medalist in the cadet event here in 2011, McKee almost didn’t make it anywhere near the medal rounds.

Down 14-11 against Caroline Mattos (Cumberland, R.I.) in the table of 32, McKee a four-touch run to win the bout, 15-14, and advance to the table of 16.

“I had a lot of comebacks. The bout to get into the 16 against Caroline, I was down, 14-11, and then I just put myself in the zone and I came back 15-14. And then I had a few bouts that weren’t as close, so I had some more confidence,” McKee said.

After a 15-7 wins against Kate Northrop (Bridgewater, N.J.) and Liana Yamin (Allendale, N.J.), McKee advanced to her first major junior semifinal against her friend Jackie Dubrovich (Riverdale, N.J.) who was a member of the team that won the silver medal at the 2011 Junior Worlds.

Again, McKee trailed by four touches, but came back to tie the score, 11-11, late in the third period.

In the one-minute sudden death overtime period, McKee scored first to win the bout, 12-11.

“I just try to ignore priority overall because, either way, you’re going to have to score a touch,” McKee said.

The gold medal bout started slowly with just one touch scored in the first period and the score tied at three between McKee and Luona Wang (Birmingham, Ala.)

In the third period, both athletes picked up the pace and McKee built a 12-8 lead with nine seconds remaining on the clock at which point the methodical game soon became the fencing equivalent of a sprint as Wang scored three touches in six seconds.

“When the score’s close, I usually go forward a bit and then back to waste time, but, against a fencer like that, that didn’t really work,” said McKee who noted that she tried to follow her coach, Buckie Leach’s advice as the clock wore down. “He just said to keep doing what I was doing. Keep the pressure on her. Wait for her to attack. Let her make the mistake…  I would break the distance, let her fall short and then I would just pick up the six. That was my strength – picking up the six and hitting her.”

With just one more score needed by Wang to tie the bout and two seconds left, McKee scored again. This time, it would be the final touch she needed to win the bout.

McKee said the slow pace during the first two periods isn’t typically her style, but she used it to her advantage during the bout.

“I guess this competition it worked well for me. I kept my distance bigger and I just stayed towards my end of the strip and waited for the other person to come and make a mistake.  I know it’s not really that interesting for the spectators and the ref to have a 1-0 bout after the bout after the first period, but a win’s a win,” she laughed.

In the cadet women’s saber event, Alexa Antipas (Stony Brook, N.Y.) ended her final year of U17 eligibility with her first Junior Olympic title.

“I definitely wanted to do well because this is my last cadet tournament and I wanted to go out with a bang,” Antipas said.

Antipas advanced to the semifinal where she met 2011 Konin Cadet European Cup silver medalist Erica Zhao (Plano, Texas).

With the score tied at 14, Antipas hit a jump parry to win the bout, 15-14.

“Last time I fenced her it was in the world cup in Poland and I lost 15-14 so I knew I had to go out with the same intensity and I came out with the extra point,” said Antipas.

In the gold medal bout, Antipas defeated Sage Palmedo (Portland, Ore.), 15-10.

“I was satisfied just to be in the finals, so, win or lose, I was gonna be happy with how I performed, but winning was icing on the cake.”

Members of the Women’s Cadet Saber World Team will be announced on Sunday after the conclusion of the junior event.

In the junior men’s team saber event, Hristov Csikany Fencers defeated the Avant-Garde Fencers Club, 45-36, to win the gold medal.

The New York Athletic Club defeated the Fencers Club of Arizona, 45-43, to win bronze.

Complete results can be found at

Top eight results in individual events are as follows:

Junior Men’s Epee
1. Garrett McGrath (Maricopa, Ariz.)
2. Dylan Nollner (Ogden, Utah)
3. Sam Freiman (Spring, Texas)
3. Alexander Eldeib (Burke, Va.)
5. Peregrine Badger (Providence, R.I.)
6. Jake Raynis (Chatsworth, Calif.)
7. Brian Ro (Scarsdale, N.Y.)
8. Dakota Nollner (Ogden, Utah)

Junior Women’s Saber
1. Niki McKee (Valley Stream, N.Y.)
2. Luona Wang (Birmingham, Ala.)
3. Jessie Laffey (Glen Ridge, N.J.)
3. Jacqueline Dubrovich (Riverdale, N.J.)
5. Sabrina Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.)
6. Mary McElwee (San Francisco, Calif.)
7. Eliza Klyce (San Francisco, Calif.)
8. Liana Yamin (Allendale, N.J.)

Cadet Women’s Saber
1. Alexa Antipas (Stony Brook, N.Y.)
2. Sage Palmedo (Portland, Ore.)
3. Erica Zhao (Plano, Texas)
3. Anastasia Pineschi (Los Angeles, Calif.)
5. Sophie Keehan (Erie, Calif.)
6. Sarah Merza (Wayne, N.J.)
7. Haley Fisher (Kennesaw, Ga.)
8. Allison Barry (Cranford, N.J.)

Medalists in the team event are as follows

Junior Men’s Team Saber
1. Hristov Csikany Fencers

Kalan Miurrelle (Davis, Calif.)
Isaac Buchwald (El Granada, Calif.)
John Hallsten (Sacramento, Calif.)
Kaito Streets (Redwood City, Calif.)

2. Avant-Garde Fencers Club
Michael Costin (Culver City, Calif.)
Alex Palabrica (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Zachary Strauss (Culver City, Calif.)
Josiah Yiu (Marina Del Rey, Calif.)

3. New York Athletic Club
Michael Szczesniak (Linden, N.J.)
Edward Radev (Middle Village, N.Y.)
Rienzi Gokea (New York City, N.Y.)
Edward Nass (Harrison, N.Y.)

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