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Kiefer, Powers and House Win Gold at January North American Cup

01/14/2012, 9:25am CST
By No Author

(Portland, Ore.) – Reigning Senior World bronze medalist Lee Kiefer (Portland, Ore.) may have entered Friday’s competition at the January North American Cup as one of the top five foil fencers in the world, but the 17-year-old found herself needing comeback wins in order to earn her third NAC title of the season.

Kiefer advanced to the quarter-finals at the Oregon Convention Center against Canadian junior fencer Eleanor Harvey, but trailed Harvey, 13-5, midway through the bout.  

With two touches remaining for Harvey to earn the win, Kiefer reeled off eight straight touches to tie the bout at 13.

“That was a crazy comeback!” Kiefer said after her bout. “I was down so much that if I had missed a few times it would have easily been over.”

In the semifinals, five-time Senior World Team member Doris Willette (Lafayette, Calif.) took an early lead against Kiefer, 9-3, but, again, Kiefer fought back to tie the bout first at 11 and then at 12. Kiefer scored the next three touches to win the bout, 15-12.

“We fence each other a lot, so of course it’s difficult, but it goes back to my focus. I knew what I needed to do, it was just a matter of executing my actions,” Kiefer said.

Kiefer’s final bout pitted the Pan Am Games Champion against her two-time Senior World teammate Nicole Ross (New York City, N.Y.) Down 4-3, Kiefer scored six touches to lead the bout, 9-4, after the first period. Kiefer’s success continued in the second period where she closed out the bout, 15-8.

“Today was a very difficult day mentally. Physically, I felt great, but I needed to up my focus,” Kiefer said.

In just four weeks, Kiefer, Willette and Ross will all return to the World Cup circuit where the fight for Olympic slots continues.

“I think most of us are focusing on the World Cups if we are trying to make team since it is more important to get experience with international fencers plus points, but NACs are good preparation for the international events,” Kiefer said.

In junior women’s saber, Skyla Powers (Decatur, Ga.) returned to the podium for the first time since winning gold at the July NAC in Reno. Powers, who finished in the top 10 at both the Cadet and Junior Worlds, entered the tournament ranked second in the nation and said she’s hoping to return to her second Junior National Team.

Powers advanced to the semifinals against Paola Pliego (MEX) who had defeated top-ranked Francesca Russo (Wayne, N.J.) and November NAC Champion Adrienne Jarocki (Middle Village, N.Y.) iin the previous two rounds.

Powers earned a 15-12 win over Pliego to advance to the gold medal bout against Erica Zhao (Plano, Texas) – a silver medalist at the Konin Cadet European Cup in October who Powers defeated at the November NAC in Austin.

Although Powers controlled the bout, Zhao scored three straight touches as Powers tried to close out the final touch.

“When I got to 13 and 14 touches, I had trouble just going for the point and it was hard for me to calm down when it gets like that,” Powers said. I just tried to breathe and think blank, though, and it worked. I feel like all my bouts had their up and down points, but overall I overcame that and finished off well.”

The win is Powers’ first top-eight finish this season and she said she hopes this event will be a springboard for success during the next two months of Junior World qualification.

“I just want to get back into my season. My last couple tournaments I’ve had trouble doing well and I just want to get back into my fencing,” Powers said.

A 2009 Junior Olympic Champion as a cadet, 17-year-old Alex House (Upton, Mass.) won his first gold medal as a junior in the men’s epee event.

House advanced through his opening rounds with little difficulty as he gave up no more than 10 touches to any opponent on his way to the quarter-finals.

“I definitely got progressively better as the day goes on. I always say that the first DE is always the hardest DE and once you get through that it’s sort of all downhill from there. Once I got to top 16, top eight, I was fencing really really well,” House said.

After a 15-13 win over Canadian Marc-Antoine Blais-Belanger, House won his semifinal bout over Joseph Wiley (Houston, Texas), 15-9.

House led Matthew McGrath (Houston, Texas), 13-8, at the break, but McGrath scored three straight touches to close the gap to 13-11. House scored the next touch and won the bout after a final double touch that brought the score to 15-12.

House said he thrives on the pressure of being on the finals strip.

“This is my first time in the finals as a junior, but I’ve been there before when I was a cadet, so it’s not completely foreign,” House said. “But it’s definitely fun. I enjoy being in the spotlight and showing everyone what I can do.”

House said he tries not to think about the upcoming Junior World Championships in Moscow when he’s fencing in qualifying tournaments.

“I try not to. Sometimes it’s hard to get it out of your head. My last year of cadets was really intense with points and I got a little crazy with it, so I work hard now to try and keep that out of my head and just forget all that while I’m fencing and try and do my best at every tournament,” he said.

Competition continues on Saturday with the following schedule:

Saturday, January 14
8:30 a.m.
Junior Men’s Foil
Division I Women’s Epee

1:30 p.m.
Division I Men’s Saber

Visit for full results. Top eight results are as follows:

Division I Women’s Foil
1. Lee Kiefer (Lexington, Ky.)
2. Nicole Ross (New York City
3. Sara Taffel (New York City
3. Doris Willette (Lafayette, Calif.)
5. Sabrina Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.)
6. Margaret Lu (Greenwich, Conn.)
7. Alexandra Kiefer (Lexington, Ky.)
8. Eleanor Harvey (CAN)

Junior Women’s Saber
1. Skyla Powers (Decatur, Ga.)
2. Erica Zhao (Plano, Texas)
3. Nicole Glon (State College, Pa.)
3. Margaret McDonald (Atlanta, Ga.)
5. Alexa Antipas (Stony Brook, N.Y.)
6. Sage Palmedo (Portland, Ore.)
7. Paola Pliego (MEX)
8. Stephanie Wang (Cupertino, Calif.)

Junior Men’s Epee
1. Alex House (Upton, Mass.)
2. Matthew McGrath (Maricopa, Ariz.)
3. Peregrine Badger (Providence, R.I.)
3. Joseph Scott Wiley (Houston, Texas)
5. Marc-Antoine Blais-Belanger (CAN)
6. Ricky Eschenbach (Millburn, N.Y.)
7. Conor Shepard (Colleyville, Texas)
8. Inaki De Guzman (Fairfax, Va.)

Tag(s): News  Lee Kiefer