Oct. 24, 2011
NOTRE DAME, Ind. –
For seven long months, members of the 2011 Notre Dame national championship fencing team walked around campus with the knowledge that they’d achieved the apex of success in their sport. After this weekend’s festivities, they finally have the hardware to show for it.
Joined by family, friends and members of the University of Notre Dame athletics department, the 2011 fencing team celebrated one of the most extraordinary seasons in program history with a special ring ceremony Saturday morning in the Monogram Room. The rings – funded by the Notre Dame Monogram Club – will function as a lasting reminder of the tremendous accomplishments the squad achieved over the past year.
“This was an unusual team,” head coach Janusz Bednarski said. “In my 25 years here, I’ve never seen such a combination of talent and personality in one room and in one gym, helping each other. This was a team of dreamers and winners at the same time, which is very rare in this sport.”
University president Rev. John I Jenkins (’76, `78), C.S.C. attended the ceremony and blessed the collection of rings before they were distributed to the student-athletes.
Jenkins lauded the athletes for their ability to come together as a team, especially in supporting teammate Ted Hodges, who struggled to recover from a heart transplant during the season after being diagnosed with viral myocarditis in 2009.
“I feel privileged to be connected to this group,” Jenkins said. “It is a team of talented individuals, but you don’t win a national championship just with talent. You have to apply that talent and work hard. You went beyond application of individual talent to achieve team success.”
Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick (’79) took to the podium after Jenkins and spoke adamantly about the program’s elite coaching staff, and how excelling in sport prepares student-athletes for life after their competitive careers are complete.
“You had the benefit of great educator-coaches who used the sport of fencing to teach life lessons,” Swarbrick said. “Even if you might not realize it now, this experience in five, 10 or 20 years from now will get you through a tough spot, because there’s nothing like the pressure of athletics and having to respond in that environment to prepare you for the challenges you’ll face in life.”
Following the formal program of remarks, Monogram Club president Dick Nussbaum (’74, ’77, baseball) and executive director Beth Hunter distributed the rings to the program’s student-athletes, coaches and support staff.
“This team has given this University and the family of Notre Dame athletes the great gift of a national championship,” Nussbaum said. “On behalf of 4,000 dues-paying members representing all 26 sports, we’d like to give back something to you in the form of these rings.”
Sophomore sabreist Alex Coccia thanked the Monogram Club for funding the team’s rings and showed his appreciation for the Club’s ongoing support.
“The Monogram Club is so active in the lives of student-athletes during our time here and after graduation,” Coccia said. “To have the Club present the rings and have them be a part of the ceremony shows how deeply involved they are and how much they care about us.”
At the conclusion of the ceremony, the student-athletes posed for photos with their new rings and celebrated one last time before kicking off the 2011-12 season in hopes of capturing back-to-back NCAA titles.
But Saturday’s festivities were meant to be a time of reflection, and the team’s coaches and administrators ensured the 2011 squad will be a competitive unit the program won’t soon forget.
“I’m so proud of these student-athletes, especially the graduating seniors that were so close to winning the national title in their first three seasons,” fencing sport administrator and assistant athletics director Maureen McNamara said. “For them to finally get over the hump in 2011 was so special. We had a lot of stars, but there was a great chemistry and this team stuck together all season.”