June 21, 2013
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – University of Notre Dame sophomore Lee Kiefer (women’s foil) became the second American fencer to win four straight individual Pan American Championship titles earlier this week in Cartagena, Colombia. Kiefer was one of four competitors with Notre Dame ties to claim gold medals at the international event.
Senior men’s foilist Gerek Meinhardt won his second career individual gold medal at the Pan Am Championships. Former women’s epeeist Courtney Hurley (’13) demonstrated her expertise by winning the individual title in her weapons class. Hurley defeating older sister Kelley Hurley (’10) in the semifinals, who ultimately finished tied for third with Brazil’s Cleia Guilhon. Women’s sabreuse Mariel Zagunis (2005-06) broke her own record of four consecutive Pan Am titles with her fifth gold medal, defeating NCAA women’s sabre champion Eliza Stone.
Seeded second in the early rounds after posting an undefeated record in pool play, Zagunis advanced into the evening semifinals by defeating her first three opponents by 15-4 margins. United States teammates Stone, Dagmara Wozniak and two-time Senior World Team medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad advanced into direct elimination play as well.
Zagunis, who dominated Venezuela’s Alejandra Benitez 15-2 in a semifinal bout, finished the first period of the championship contest tied with Stone at one touch apiece. Zagunis went on a scoring spree, out-touching Stone on a 7-0 run to build an 8-1 advantage. Stone responded out of the break and closed the gap to 12-10 at the end of the second period before Zagunis scored the final three touches to win 15-12.
Meinhardt, who won his most recent Pan Am title in 2007, finished pool play as the top seed with an undefeated record in the men’s foil event. Meinhardt was joined by his 2012 Olympic Games teammates Miles Chamley-Watson, Race Imboden and Alexander Massialas in the direct elimination table. Chamley-Watson, Imboden and Massialas each went undefeated in pool play as well, and earned the second, third and fourth seeds, respectively.
Meinhardt met Canadian Maximilien Van Hasster in the semifinals. Van Hasster held the advantage early on, going ahead 3-1 before an official determined that the setting sun was shining in Meinhardt’s eyes that required a break to be called in the action.
After the bout resumed, Meinhardt went on to tie the competition at five and held on to the lead to emerge victorious, 15-11.
Meinhardt and Imboden fenced for the first time in international competition in the championship bout of the foil draw. The two exchanged touches early on, with Imboden leading 12-10 late in the first period before Meinhardt scored twice to tie the bout in the final seconds. In the second period, Meinhardt scored three straight touches to claim the championship 15-12.
In the women’s foil competition, Kiefer advanced out of pool play as the fifth seed. American teammates Nzingha Prescod, Margaret Lu and Nicole Ross all earned the top three seeds with undefeated pool-play records.
Kiefer defeated Nataly Michel of Mexico 15-7 in her quarterfinal bout to advance into the semifinals against Lu. Kiefer recovered from an early 2-0 deficit to score seven straight touches and enter the break in the lead, 10-4. Kiefer outscored her American counterpart 5-3 in the second period to advance into the championships (15-7), where another teammate, Prescod, awaited her.
Kiefer struck quickly to score three unanswered touches before growing her lead to 7-3 at the end of the first period. Prescod requested a weapon change and scored three of the next four touches by the break. The change helped her secure a 10-8 lead in the second period, but Kiefer battled back and claimed a 14-12 cushion.
Prescod tied the bout at 14-all, but it was Kiefer who scored the final touch and emerged victorious, 15-14. She became only the second fencer ever to take four straight titles at the Pan American Zonal Championships behind Zagunis, who had previously won four straight titles in women’s sabre from 2009-2012.
Kiefer continued her winning ways in the team competition, leading the U.S. Women’s Foil Team to a gold medal finish Wednesday over longtime rival Canada. Team USA did not lose a single bout during the competition, closing the event undefeated for the eighth straight time, capped by a 38-36 championship bout victory over Canada.
Rounding out the individual competitors with Notre Dame ties was the epee sister duo of Courtney and Kelley Hurley. Courtney, a 2009 Pan Am champion, won her first three bouts of the day with identical scores of 15-9. She advanced into the semifinals and took on Kelley in what was a repeat of the 2011 Pan Am Championship gold medal bout.
Courtney took an early 8-5 lead, but Kelley would tie the bout, first at eight then at 10. Courtney scored three of the next five touches to lead 13-12, before both sisters battled out to a 15-14 Courtney victory.
Similar to Zagunis’, Meinhardt’s, and Kiefer’s gold medal bouts, when Hurley stepped onto the medal bout strip, awaiting her was U.S. teammate Katharine Holmes. After closing out the first period tied, Hurley led most of the second period and posted a 12-10 advantage heading into the third and final frame. After Hurley opened a 14-11 cushion, Holmes battled back with three consecutive touches to tie the bout at 14. Hurley regained her composure and scored the final touch to win 15-14.
In all four weapons classes (men’s foil, women’s foil, women’s epee and women’s sabre), Team USA finished 1-2-3 on the podium, which is expected to help the American squads in World Cup seeding. That championship will take place in August in Budapest, Hungary.