Shepard, Schneider and Lu Claim Gold at the November NAC
(Virginia Beach, Va.) – In the notoriously unpredictable world of men’s epee, the Division I event at the November North American Cup on Sunday began with 264 fencers and a competition schedule that would run nearly nine hours, including pool rounds and a repechage table for those that lasted until the top 32.
As a bronze medalist at the July North American Cup in the U20 event, 17-year-old Conor Shepard (Colleyville, Texas) is familiar with the grind of large events, but, until Sunday, he had never made it past the table of 32 at a Division I competition.
And so he came to Virginia Beach with no expectations, a plan to fence his best and an evening plane ticket back to Texas.
“Oh, I definitely didn’t think I’d make it all day,” Shepard laughed after his final match.
Although he lost just one bout in the pools, Shepard’s 5-1 result left him with a 53rd seed into the direct elimination table.
Shepard did earn a bye into the table of 128, though, where he won his next two bouts by scores of 15-13 over Michael Culler (Hopkinton, Mass.) and Adam Frank (Portland, Ore.)
In the table of 32, Shepard defeated Keith Lichten (Oakland, Calif.), 15-14, and won his table of 16 bout over Simon Jones (Providence, R.I.), 15-11.
With one bout needed to advance to the quarter-finals, Shepard upset 2012 Pan American Team member Rob Rhea (Colorado Springs, Colo.), 15-11, to move into the top eight.
In the next round, Conor won his quarter-final bout against 1999 Pan American Games Team member Scott Rostal (Saint Paul, Minn.), 15-13.
Shepard led his semifinal bout against 2012 Junior World Team member Dylan Nollner (Ogden, Utah) by 7-5 after the first period. In the second, he went on a four-touch run early in the second to take the score to 11-5.
Shepard outscored Nollner 4-1 during the next series of exchanges and closed out the win, 15-7, with a double touch.
In the gold medal final, Shepard started out strong and built a 6-1 lead, but two-time Junior World Team member Jonathan Yergler (Princeton, N.J.) tied the bout at nine mid-way through the second period.
After a double touch, Shepard scored three straight to take a 13-10 lead. Yergler scored once more, but Shepard finished the bout, 15-11 to win gold.
Shepard’s gold medal win is expected to propel him from a #12 junior national ranking to a top-four position which would put him in contention to compete at the 2013 Junior World Championships.
“It was a great day and I’m still amazed I won,” Shepard said. “It would be awesome to be able to compete at Junior Worlds next year. I just missed the Cadet Worlds last year and was the first alternate, so making the team would be great.”
While Shepard was thrilled to win his first Division I NAC title, two-time Senior World medalist Daria Schneider (New York City, N.Y.) was back to claim her second NAC gold of the season.
Schneider earned a bye into the table of 64 where she defeated Claudia Kulmacz (Upper Saddle River, N.J.), 15-2.
During her next two bouts, Schneider earned victories over Anastasia Pineschi (Los Angeles, Calif.), 15-9, and Anastasia Ivanoff (Los Angeles, Calif.), 15-10.
Schneider faced her most significant challenge of the day when 2012 Cadet World medalist Francesca Russo (Wayne, N.J.) led by four touches (8-4) at the break of their quarter-final bout.
“She was fencing really well today and I think I was a little hesitant because I wasn’t sure what was going to work, so I was only half going for my actions and then my teammate Jeff Spear was actually coaching me and he mentioned that at the break that, even though I wasn’t totally sure if I had the right plan, I should go for it 100% so it would at least give me information,” Schneider said.
In the second period, Schneider came back to tie the bout at 10 and outscored Russo, 5-1, during the final series of touches to take the win, 15-11.
“After the break I was a lot more confident and aggressive with the actions I did decide to do and that worked a lot better for me because, even if I didn’t score the touch, it raised my energy level up and made her a little more intimidated even when she was doing really good actions,” Schneider said.
Schneider won her semifinal against Gracie Stone (Chicago, Ill.), 15-11, to advance to the gold medal match where she defeated 2012 Cadet World medalist Skyla Powers (Decatur, Ga.), 15-8.
“I was a little bit apprehensive about today. Because of the hurricane that hit New York, I wasn’t training then and then I had this short vacation planned to Amsterdam so I went there and visited a friend. But then I got back and I got sick so I was barely able to train for the last two weeks,” Schneider said. “So I was nervous about my energy level, but I feel like I was able to find a way to dig deep in each bout and I’m really happy about that.”
In the day’s final individual event, junior women’s foil, Margaret Lu (Greenwich, Conn.) claimed her first gold medal at a major national event since winning the Division I National Championships as a 17-year-old in 2011.
Seeded second after the pools, Lu opened with a bye into the table of 64 and a 15-4 win over Rachel Viqueira (Maplewood, N.J.) in her first direct elimination bout.
In the table of 32, Lu defeated Caroline Mattos (Cumberland, R.I.), 15-6.
Lu went on to defeat her 2012 Junior World Teammate, Jackie Dubrovich (Riverdale, N.J.), 15-9, in the table of 16.
Lu won her next two bouts by scores of 15-7 each against 2012 Pan American medalist Alanna Goldie (CAN) and 2012 Cadet World Team member Sabrina Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.)
In the gold medal final, Lu met Eleanor Harvey – the Canadian who defeated 2011 Senior World medalist Lee Kiefer (Lexington, Ky.) to win gold in the Division I event on Friday.
Lu was leading the bout, 6-5, with 11 seconds left in the final period when Harvey began chasing Lu down the strip in frantic attempts to tie the score and send the bout into overtime.
“I knew I had to stick with my game plan and I knew it was tight and I just had to close it out,” Lu said.
Lu countered each of Harvey’s attacks and added three more touches to her score to take the win, 9-5.
“It’s been a long time coming. I’ve been working really hard and it’s good to see it’s all paying off,” said Lu who fell just short of qualifying for the London Olympic Games, but plans on training for Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
In the senior men’s team saber competition, Penn State University took its third team title of the weekend.
The Nittany Lions team of Adrian Bak (Franklin Lakes, N.J.), Alex Schneller (North Billerica, Mass.), Kaito Streets (Redwood City, Calif.) and Schaul Gordon (CAN) won the gold medal by a score of 45-24 over Son 1’s Dan Berliner (Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, Fla.), Sebastian Bruno-Harris (Westown, Fla.), Joseph Mitrani (Bay Harbor Islands, Fla.) and Andrew Stetsiv (Staten Island, N.Y.)
The SON 2 team also reached the podium.
The Canadian team, Brebeuf, held the lead in the bronze medal match over SON 2 by a score of 35-33 after the seventh bout between Hassen Tachefine (CAN) and Afzal Qureshi (Boca Raton, Fla.)
In the eighth bout Allen Schneider (Fayetteville, Ga.) outscored Pascal Lambert (CAN), 7-4, to give SON 2 a 40-39 lead.
SON 2 anchor Christopher Chaney (Spring Hill, Tenn.) closed out the bronze medal win with a 5-4 victory over Cedric Boutet (CAN) and an overall score of 45-43.
Competition concludes on Monday with the schedule as follows (note: all times are start times, not check-in times):
Monday, November 12
Division I Men’s Individual Foil
Junior Women’s Individual Epee
Junior Men’s Individual Saber
Senior Women’s Team Foil
For complete results, visit www.usfencingresults.com
Top eight results are as follows:
Division I Men’s Individual Epee
1. Conor Shepard (Colleyville, Texas)
2. Jonathan Yergler (Princeton, N.J.)
3. Dylan Nollner (Ogden, Utah)
3. Rob Rhea (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
5. Scott Rostal (Saint Paul, Minn.)
6. Yeisser Ramirez (Bronx, N.Y.)
7. Jimmy Moody (Colorado Springs, Colo.)
8. Lewis Weiss (Houston, Texas)
Division I Women’s Individual Saber
1. Daria Schneider (New York City, N.Y.)
2. Skyla Powers (Decatur, Ga.)
3. Gracie Stone (Chicago, Ill.)
3. Eliza Stone (Chicago, Ill.)
5. Loweye Diedro (New York City, N.Y.)
6. Erica Zhao (Plano, Texas)
7. Essane Diedro (New York City, N.Y.)
8. Francesca Russo (Wayne, N.J.)
Junior Women’s Individual Foil
1. Margaret Lu (Greenwich, Conn.)
2. Eleanor Harvey (CAN)
3. Sabrina Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.)
3. Kyjah Coryat (New York City, N.Y.)
5. Alanna Goldie (CAN)
6. Sara Taffel (New York City, N.Y.)
7. Stefani Deschner (Mechanicsville, Va.)
8. Nina Stackhouse (Bothell, Wash.)
Senior Men’s Team Saber
1. Penn State University
2. SON 1
3. SON 2
4. Brebeuf 2
5. Boston Fencing Club