Dec. 9, 2009
By Kelly Taylor
Sports Information Student Assistant
Many high-achieving students enter high school with a single goal in mind, and at the forefront of that goal, the Golden Dome and the Grotto reside. It is not uncommon that athletes and students alike aspire to receive admittance to Notre Dame from the time they are in grade school.
For others, however, Notre Dame is merely an option as opposed to a dream. Specifically, junior fencer Sarah Borrmann’s journey towards Touchdown Jesus was anything but clear. Borrmann, a native of Beaverton, Ore., made a split-second decision to attend the University during her senior year in high school.
“To be honest, I thought I was going to end up at Penn State,” Borrmann said. “I had two letters of intent in front of me, and I didn’t know which one to sign.” Not only had Borrmann never visited Notre Dame, she knew nothing about the school or the campus. “I didn’t even know what state Notre Dame was in, since nobody in Oregon really goes there,” she said. “But I just signed [the letter of intent] and sent it in.”
Scared she may not like the university she had committed to, Borrmann came in with butterflies during the start of freshman year. “I just came out here in August and hoped everything would work out,” Borrmann said. Even though she knew nothing about the school, Borrmann relied on her instincts to make the final decision. “I didn’t like the size of Penn State, and there’s something about Notre Dame where you know, no matter what, it’s a really good thing,” she said.
Luckily, Borrmann is now fully confident that she made the right decision. “Oh, I absolutely love it here,” Borrmann said. “It’s weird how I got here but it was also cool that my dad and I got to explore Notre Dame together for the first time.” One of the initial shocks occurred during freshman year. “I remember when my roommate told me she was connected to the Rolfs family. I came back from my swim test at the Rolfs Aquatic Center and she said, `Yeah, that’s me.’ It was crazy,” Borrmann said.
The reason as to why Borrmann initially began fencing is also unorthodox. “When I was little, all I wanted to do was go swimming. Everyday, I would go to the pool all day long. But I didn’t want to join the swim team, so my parents decided it was time for me to try a real sport,” Borrmann said. However, due to her parents’ encouragement, Borrmann’s fencing career quickly shot off. She won the NCAA Sabre Championship during her freshman year with the Fighting Irish, and is now a captain of the women’s sabre team.
To expand upon her captain duties, Borrmann believes in acting as a role model to follow. “I don’t really like yelling at people,” Borrmann said. “I think the best way to be a captain is to lead by example, try hard, and take it seriously.” She also organizes team dinners throughout the season. “I cook dinner for 20 people in the Farley basement,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun.”
Further supporting her peculiar back-story, Borrmann’s championship during her rookie season proved triumphant. “My goal was just to do well,” she said. “I fenced amazingly during the first day at the NCAAs and was the number two seed. But during the second day, I got nervous and didn’t perform as well.” Luckily, Borrmann’s I’ve-got-nothing-to-lose mindset served her well, as she solidly handled her final opponents from Wayne State and Ohio State to win the national championship. “I was so happy. At the time, my dad was in the hospital with my grandpa who was really sick, and I called him crying. At first he was worried, but then I told him that I won and we both just cried it out,” Borrmann said.
Unfortunately, Borrmann hit a rough patch during her sophomore year. “I had a tough first semester with both school and fencing. At one point I went into a camp without three weeks of physical activity, and that’s where I injured my hamstring,” Borrmann said. However, Borrmann has a very positive attitude towards her injury, as she has learned to play through the pain and deal with it. “If you’re an athlete, you’re bound to get injured at some point, but it’s really not a big deal,” Borrmann said.
Going into this season, it is an entirely different story. Borrmann has high hopes both for herself individually and for the team as a whole. “We have a really good team this year, and we definitely want to take home the NCAA championship,” Borrmann said. Individually, she is looking to alter her mindset. “Last year there was nowhere to go but down; I was so nervous and petrified,” she said. “But this year I just want to have a good mentality.”
According to Borrmann, that mentality is what may cause her to come off as intimidating. “People sometimes tell me that they are intimidated by me, and others think I’m really intense,” Borrmann said. “I take my sport seriously but at the same time, I like to have a lot of fun.”
Through Borrmann’s eyes, the `fun’ aspect is what sets fencing apart from other athletic teams. “I love our team; I feel like other sports teams get stressed out, but we have a really good team environment,” she said. Borrmann claims she even fences the boys in order to practice at a higher level of competition, something many female athletes don’t get the opportunity to do. “We just have an awesome team, and I like the laid-back attitude,” she said.
Aside from fencing, Borrmann is more than content with her political science major. “I love reading and researching, and I really want to go to law school,” she said. Borrmann was the first person in her family to attend college, and wants to attend graduate school in order to set a precedent. “My family was never academic at all, so my dad thinks it would be the coolest thing in the world if I went to law school,” she said.
Borrmann may never have suspected that she would be creating dreams under the Dome, but her successes have proved this assumption wrong. Not only does she continue to love fencing, but she has found a newfound love for Notre Dame as well.
— ND —