Carly Guss ’06 entered the world of fencing much later than most athletes involved in the sport. So when she first began training in her freshman year of college, she shared the company, but not the competitive experience, of veteran national team members and even Olympians.
But as she ended her career this past weekend at the NCAA championships, she was competing and succeeding on the same plane as those experienced fencers.
“I was really glad I got to compete on the same level with them, because I started fencing a lot later then they did, and I’m pleased with that,” Guss said.
On March 17, Yale sent three of its fencers to the NCAA championships at Rice University in Houston, Texas. The Bulldogs had well-rounded representation with Guss, Michael Pearce ’09 and Cory Werk ’06 competing in the saber, epee and foil, respectively.
Each athlete was assigned to a three-person traveling group that entered seven rounds of competition. These seven rounds were divided into 23 matches, allowing each fencer to face all of his or her group’s competitors.
Pearce shared his traveling group with two representatives from the Air Force Academy. After his first round, in which he faced these traveling companions and three others, he was sitting in 21st place. Though this put him in a discouraging position early on, he fought back with persistence to end the day in 11th place. With this energy carrying him into the second day, Pearce blew out the competition in his last eight matches, losing only one to Harvard’s Benji Ungar, the weekend’s champion. Overall, the freshman had a +14 indicator, scoring 90 touches and receiving only 76. This led to a total of 15 victories, putting Pearce in fifth place and earning him recognition as a second-team All-American athlete.
“I’m just really, really excited that I pulled through,” Pearce said. “That’s the thing I’m most proud about, how hard I fenced the second day considering how average my first day was.”
Guss, unsheathing her sword for the last time, finished her competitive career as 15th in the nation. Leaving the sport on a high note, she emerged victorious in eight of her 23 matches, beating some girls for the first time in four years. Officially, Guss finished with a -23 indicator, scoring 76 touches and receiving 99.
“I’m really happy with how well I fenced,” Guss said. “I’m really glad that I got to end my fencing career at nationals.”
She also looks to the future of her team, though, expressing hopes that a larger group of Yale’s women fencers will be representing the Bulldogs at nationals next year.
Werk also placed well in Houston as the 13th finisher in the foil category. He earned 11 victories and walked away with a -12 indicator. John Beski ’07 said Werk’s performance was particularly notable because he missed parts of the fall season.
“It was good that he made the tournament after having come in so late in the season,” Beski said.