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Kiefer and Imboden Continue Success at December NAC in Kansas City

12/10/2011, 9:36am CST
By Nicole Jomantas

(Kansas City, Mo.) – Foil fencers Lee Kiefer (Lexington, Ky.) and Race Imboden (Brooklyn, N.Y.) each concluded a year filled with domestic and international podium finishes with gold medals in the women’s and men’s Division I events at the North American Cup at the Kansas City Convention Center on Friday.

Although both athletes are still juniors, they each have become among the top senior athletes in the world with 17-year-old Kiefer ranked sixth and 18-year-old Imboden ranked 11th.

On Friday, both athletes continued their quest for berths on the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team with wins in the December NAC which gave them each valuable qualifying points on the National Point Standings.

Kiefer, who won bronze at the Senior Worlds in October and went undefeated in the North American Cups last season with gold medals in each of the three Division I NACs, began the 2011-2012 season with another gold medal.

Seeded eighth after the pools after dropping a bout to Olivia Dobbs (Farmington, Mich.), 5-2, Kiefer won her first two direct elimination bouts with scores of 15-6 against Ursula Szpak (Trophy Club, Texas) and Nicole McKee (Valley Stream, N.Y.)

Kiefer advanced to the quarter-finals after a 15-11 win over Julia Khakimova (RUS) where she would face Margaret Lu (Greenwich, Conn.) Although the two won a silver medal at the Junior Worlds together in the team event earlier this year, Kiefer and Lu have most frequently competed on opposite sides of the strip at the junior and senior levels. With Kiefer winning their last grueling bout in the U20 semifinals at the November NAC in Austin last month and Lu taking the gold after their Division I Nationals bout in August, the two inevitably find themselves competing against each other in most U.S. tournaments.

This time, Kiefer held onto an early lead and defeated Lu, 15-9, to advance to the semifinals where she again controlled her bout against 2011 Junior World Teammate Jacqueline Dubrovich (Riverdale, N.J.) to win the bout, 15-9, while Dubrovich finished the day with her second Division I NAC medal of the year.

On the opposite side of the table, 2008 Olympic silver medalist Emily Cross (New York City, N.Y.) won a decisive bout against Junior World Champion Nzingha Prescod (Brooklyn, N.Y.), 15-8, in the quarters, but Doris Willette (Lafayette, Calif.) – the replacement athlete on the Beijing team –  built a 13-11 lead in the second period of their semifinal bout. During a late touch, Cross went down with an injured leg and took a 10-minute medical timeout. Although Cross continued the bout, she ended the event with a bronze medal when Willette closed out the win, 15-11.

In a rematch of their Pan Am Championships final from July, Kiefer built a 10-3 lead against Willette during the first period before going on to win the bout, 15-6.

“I’m always happy to win, but today was a struggle. It was a difficult day, but I powered through. It wasn’t pretty,” Kiefer said. “I had a headache that was bothering me and some days you just feel like you’re fencing pretty and everything’s going well and this wasn’t it. I got a few red cards for corps a corps. It was a long day.”

Kiefer said each of her bouts from the table of 16 on provided a different challenge.

“When I fenced the Russian, that was like ‘I need to get my act together cause this is the 16’ tough and when I fenced Margaret that was like ‘we fence each other all the time and so this is gonna be another long one’ tough and when I fenced Jackie it was ‘I need to stay focused’ tough and by the time I got to the final against Doris it was like ‘It’s been a long day and my legs are going to cramp soon’ tough,” Kiefer said.

Kiefer went on to say that she remains just as focused for domestic events as she does for major international tournaments.

“You just go to every tournament and you do what you have to do. You don’t tell yourself it’s a NAC. You just tell yourself you have to do awesome every time at every tournament, regardless of what it is,” said Kiefer whose family provides additional motivation. “Winning’s always fun, but I’m not just doing it for myself, but for my parents and everybody who supports me too.”

Earlier in the day, Imboden held each of his opponents to nine touches or less to win his first Division I NAC gold after taking titles at the Division I Nationals and Pan American Championships last season.

Seeded third in the direct elimination tables after going undefeated in the pools, Imboden defeated Stephen Baker (Pittsburgh, Pa.), 15-2, after a bye into the table of 64.

In the next round, Imboden won his bout against his Empire United Fencing and 2011 Junior World teammate Brian Kaneshige (Maplewood, N.J.), 15-7, and took a 15-9 win over Michael Dudey (Bellaire, Texas), who was fresh off his bronze medal win at the London Junior World Cup last weekend, to advance to the quarters.

Meanwhile, top-ranked Alexander Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.), the reigning Pan American Champion, and 2010 Senior World medalist Gerek Meinhardt (San Francisco, Calif.) met in an unlikely pairing in the table of 16.

After dropping two pool bouts, Massialas entered the tables seeded 36th and Meinhardt, who was nursing a hamstring injury following his gold medal win at the Olympic test event in London two weeks ago, drew a 13th seed. The bout remained close in the beginning with the score tied early, but Meinhardt pulled away with a 15-7 win over Massialas – his teammate at both the Massialas Foundation at Halberstadt and on the last three Senior World Team squads.

In the quarter-finals, Imboden defeated Zain Shaito (LIB), 15-7, while Meinhardt earned a 15-3 win over two-time Senior World Team member Kurt Getz (Rye, N.Y.)

In one of the event’s most exciting quarter-final bouts, Massialas Foundation fencer Turner Caldwell (San Francisco, Calif.) upset second-ranked Miles Chamley-Watson (Philadelphia, Pa.) when the 19-year-old won the bout, 15-10. Chamley-Watson, who also was injured at the test event, trailed Caldwell, by 13-8 late in the bout, but earned two points to close the score to 14-10 before Caldwell earned the win, 15-10.

Caldwell then defeated Meinhardt, 15-12, to advance to the finals against Imboden who won his bout against 2011 Junior World teammate David Willette (Lafayette, Calif.), 15-7.

“Who makes the finals is always up in the air, especially at the NACs. Obviously I’m always keeping an eye out for the other guys on the team during the day because we’re pretty close. But I know when I was a young guy and I made my first final nobody expected it so I always try to keep my mind open because you never know how somebody’s going to do,” Imboden said of his mindset going into the final pairing.”

Fencing for gold, Imboden led from the start against Caldwell and went on to win the bout, 15-9.

“It’s a nice feeling to win. I’ve been working hard and to see it pay off is really nice. You never know what’s going to happen with the competition here. I had some really good bouts so today was my day I guess,” said Imboden who noted that the field was strong throughout the tournament. “Everybody I fenced was really strong today. I fenced my teammate Brian early and then right into Dudey and David and Caldwell and Zain have all been around a really long time. There were good, consistent fencers all day and that’s good to have strong fencers from the start because it means our country is getting stronger all the time.”

Coming off a fourth place finish at the Olympic test event, Imboden continues to remain focused on the ultimate goal of competing at the London Games.

“It’s my mom’s hometown, so I got to see some family which was really nice. The venue looks great. There’s a lot of space. It’s kind of eerie up there because it’s just you and a spotlight in a big black room with lots of lights and special effects, but it’s really cool and hopefully I’ll be there and can be a part of that next year,” Imboden said.

In addition to the Division I events, competition on Friday also included veteran, Division II and wheelchair events.  

Following her silver medal win at the Veteran World Championships in October behind teammate Delia Turner (Philadelphia, Pa.) in the women’s 60-69 saber, Ellen O’Leary (Decatur, Ga.) took gold in her first +70 event.

The top seed after the pools, O’Leary gave up just two touches during her direct elimination bouts as she defeated Sherry Green (Portland, Ore.), 10-2, in the semifinals and Louisa Felty (Louisville, Ky.), 10-0, to win the event.

“I would have to call it a new experience. There’s only four of us in saber so there’s not as much competition just because there’s not many of us. I’m the new kid on the block, but I’m not the new kid to saber because all of us weren’t allowed saber as younger people and we’ve all just picked it up within the last few years,” O’Leary said. “I think it’s going to be a fun year, though, and at Worlds it’s going to be tough because there’s a lot of people aging in this year as well so I’m looking forward to that too.”

O’Leary began the sport originally as a foil fencer as a 63-year-old in 2004 and transitioned to saber during the following two years.

Although many veteran fencers, such as Felty who has competed for more than 50 years, were introduced to the sport at a younger age, O’Leary encourages people of all ages to try the sport.

“I tell people that it’s a mind-balance activity that you can pick up at any age and that you can do it for fun or competition or both. There are women who actually started in their 70s. Una Jackson [O’Leary’s 2011 Veteran World teammate] actually started in her 70s,” O’Leary said.

In the veteran 60-69 saber event, Turner won her fourth straight domestic title in the event after winning gold at the Veteran Worlds in Croatia. Turner edged Linda Dunn (Greenfield, Ind.), 10-8, in the semifinals and seven-time Veteran World Team member Judith Offerle (Winnetka, Ill.), 10-4.

Two-time Veteran World Champion Jane Eyre (Swedesboro, N.J.)  was nearly upset by Chaz Smith (Diamond Springs, Colo.) in the quarter-finals of the veteran 50-59 saber event, but pulled out the win, 10-9, before defeating Miyako DeRose (JPN), 10-2, in the semifinals and four-time Veteran World Team member Jeannine Bender (Princeton, N.J.), 10-3, to win gold.

Will Milne (Redwood City, Calif.), a 2011 Veteran World Team member, won the veteran men’s 50-59-year-old saber event. After 10-9 victories over 2011 Veteran World silver medalist Joshua Runyan (San Diego, Calif.) and Val Kizik (Indianapolis, Ind.) in the quarters and semis, respectively, Milne defeated Andrew Houle (Dartmouth, Mass.), 10-8, in the gold medal final.

The reigning Veteran World Champion in the 60-69 saber, Wang Yung (Bellevue, Wash.) defeated two-time Veteran World Champion Paul Apostol (Wyckoff, N.J.), 10-7, in the semifinals and outtouched Joseph Streb (Columbus, Ohio), 10-9, to win the title.  

After a bye into the semifinals, reigning Veteran +70 Saber World medalist John Terninko (Nottingham, N.J.) defeated William Hall (Acton, Mass.) before upsetting the 2011 Veteran World Champion Marvin Fine (CAN), 10-3, in the final bout

In the veteran +40 men’s epee, 2009 Veteran World Champion Walter Dragonetti (Elyria, Ohio) earned the gold in a 70-person event that was open to all ages. Dragonetti defeated Daniel Rees (Denver, Colo.), 10-7, in the semifinals and won a 3-2 bout over Carl Loeffler (Santa Monica, Calif.) to win the title.

A silver medalist in the Division III women’s epee event at the March NAC, 15-year-old Rebecca Rose (Chicago, Ill.) won her first Division II title on Friday when she defeated Alexandra Chernyshova (Morrisville, Pa.) in the gold medal final, 15-6.

In the wheelchair men’s epee event, Tariq Alqallaf (KUW) earned the gold medal after a 15-6 final win over 2004 Paralympian Gary Van Der Wege (Kyle, Texas).

Competition continues on Saturday with Olympians Seth Kelsey (Colorado Springs, Colo.) and Cody Mattern (Colorado Springs, Colo.) fencing in the Division I men’s epee event and 2011 Senior World medalists Ibtihaj Muhammad (Maplewood, N.J.) and Daria Schneider (New York City, N.Y.) competing in Division I women’s saber.

The competition schedule for Saturday’s events is as follows:

Saturday, Dec. 10
8:30 a.m.
Division I Men’s Epee
Division I Women’s Saber
Veteran 40+ Women’s Foil

9:30 a.m.
Wheelchair Men’s Foil

11 a.m.
Veteran 50-59 Women’s Epee
Veteran 60-69 Women’s Epee
Women’s +70 Women’s Epee

12:30 p.m.
Division II Men’s Foil

1 p.m.
Veteran Men’s 40+ Saber

Click here for complete results. Top eight results are as follows:

Division I Men’s Foil
1. Race Imboden (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
2. Turner Caldwell (San Francisco, Calif.)
3. Gerek Meinhardt (San Francisco, Calif.)
3. David Willette (Lafayette, Calif.)
5. Kurt Getz (Rye, N.Y.)
6. Jerry Chang (Mountain View, Calif.)
7. Miles Chamley-Watson (Philadelphia, Pa.)
8. Zain Shaito (LIB)

Division I Women’s Foil
1. Lee Kiefer (Lexington, Ky.)
2. Doris Willette (Lafayette, Calif.)
3. Jacqueline Dubrovich (Riverdale, N.J.)
3. Emily Cross (New York City, N.Y.)
5. Margaret Lu (Greenwich, Conn.)
6. Nzingha Prescod (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
7. Luona Wang (Birmingham, Ala.)
8. Ambika Singh (Skillman, N.J.)

Veteran 40+ Men’s Epee
1. Walter Dragonetti (Elyria, Ohio)
2. Carl Loeffler (Santa Monica, Calif.)
3. Michael Perka (Mountain View, Calif.)
3. Daniel Rees (Denver, Colo.)
5. Benoit Pouliquen (Eden Prairie, Minn.)
6. David Jensen (Los Angeles, Calif.)
7. Eli Delgado Jr. (Henderson, Nev.)
8. Bela Suveg (CAN)

Veteran 50-59 Women’s Saber
1. Jane Eyre (Swedesboro, N.J.)
2. Jeannine Bender (Princeton, N.J.)
3. Heidi Runyan (San Jose, Calif.)
3. Miyako DeRose (JPN)
5. Laura DeSimone (Sparks, Nev.)
6. Sharol Pestotnik (Arvada, Colo.)
7. Chaz Smith (Diamond Springs, Colo.)
8. Lydia Mazorol (Simi Valley, Calif.)

Veteran 60-69 Women’s Saber
1. Delia Turner (Philadelphia, Pa.)
2. Judith Offerle (Winnetka, Ill.)
3. Linda Dunn (Greenfield, Ind.)
3. Muriel Evans (Gold River, Calif.)
5. Anna Mannino (Lebanon, N.J.)
6. Bonnie Aher (Brookfield, Conn.)
7. Diane Hiatt (Sparks, Nev.)
8. Karen Brynildsen (Denville, N.J.)

Veteran +70 Women’s Saber
1. Ellen O’Leary (Decatur, Ga.)
2. Louisa Felty (Louisville, Ky.)
3. Sherry Green (Portland, Ore.)
3. Una Jackson (Hilton Head, S.C.)

Veteran 50-59 Men’s Saber
1. Will Milne (Redwood City, Calif.)
2. Andrew Houle (Dartmouth, Mass.)
3. Mike Krasnich (CAN)
3. Val Kizik (Indianapolis, Ind.)
5. Dmitry Kopylov (Roseland, N.J.)
6. Joshua Runyan (San Diego, Calif.)
7. Ted Smith (Diamond Springs, Calif.)
8. R. Jai Kim (Shingle Springs, Calif.)

Veteran 60-69 Men’s Saber
1. Wang Yung (Bellevue, Wash.)
2. Joseph Streb (Columbus, Ohio)
3. Ray Sexton III (Round Rock, Texas)
3. Paul Apostol (Wyckoff, N.J.)
5. David Seuss (Charlestown, Mass.)
6. Brian Harper (Gainesville, Fla.)
7. Philip Kath (Morganton, N.C.)
8. Philip Sbarbaro (Vienna, Va.)

Veteran +70 Men’s Saber
1. John Terninko (Nottingham, N.J.)
2. Marvin Fine (CAN)
3. Jim Adams (Rockville, Md.)
3. William Hall (Acton, Mass.)
5. Victor Bianchini (San Diego, Calif.)
6. Thomas Fischer (Raytown, Mo.)

Division II Women’s Epee
1. Rebecca Rose (Chicago, Ill.)
2. Alexandra Chernyshova (Morrisville, Pa.)
3. Cristina Gordet (Somerville, Mass.)
3. Anahit Campbell (Bayside, Wis.)
5. Wei Yung (Bedminster, N.J.)
6. Marcia Pierce (Richmond, Ky.)
7. Elizabeth Kirk (Bentonville, Ark.)
8. Julia Smith (Washington, D.C.)

Wheelchair Men’s Epee
1. Tariq Alqallaf (KUW)
2. Gary Van Der Wege (Kyle, Texas)
3. John Berret Jr. (Madison, Miss.)
3. Corbin Beu (Phoenix, Ariz.)
5. Randy Lavender (Tupelo, Miss.)
7. Richard Zengler (Norcross, Ga.)

Tag(s): News  Race Imboden  Lee Kiefer  Linda J. Dunn  Ellen O'Leary