Competing in familiar territory
Princeton's Kelley fences in hometown San Antonio for title
SAN ANTONIO -- Princeton senior Ed Kelley of San Antonio put on a good show for the hometown fans Thursday at the NCAA Fencing Championships at Freeman Coliseum.
Kelley, a specialist in epee, racked up a 10-5 record in the first three rounds of the round-robin competition. He is behind Harvard's Peregrine Badger, Columbia-Barnard's Brian Ro and Princeton teammate Jonathan Yergler, the defending national champion. The final two rounds will begin at 10:30 a.m. ET Friday, with the top four competiors of each specialty advancing to the semifinals. The final four winners will compete in the title bouts of epee, foil and sabre, starting at 2:30 p.m. ET.
"I'm in a good position," said Kelley, who placed eighth in the 2012 championships and third at this year's Midwest Regional. "It's a good start for the first day. It wasn't a great start, but it was solid. There are so many difficult competitors here. Every single person here could beat you. I was able to keep consistent against all of these strong fencers. Even if I lost, it was by a one or two touches, I kept every single bout close, and I maintained the same level of fencing throughout the day."
The Tigers, runners-up to Ohio State in 2012, are in second place in the team competition with 51 points. Penn State is the leader with 63 points. Harvard stands in third place (50 points), Notre Dame is fourth (50 points), Stanford is No. 5 (45 points), Penn is sixth (43 points) and Ohio State is in seventh place (42 points) in the 21-team field.
NCAA Fencing is a combined men's and women's event, with the team totals added up on the final day of competition. The women's tournament is slated for Saturday and Sunday.
In the men's sabre event, Daryl Homer of St. John's (N.Y.), who won the title in 2010 and 2011, leads the pack with a 14-1 record. He competed in last year's London Olympics. The foil competition is led by Notre Dame's Gerek Meinhardt, the 2010 title winner. He sported a perfect 15-0 record on Thursday.
In spite of the important stakes and the pressure of competition, Kelley is also having a lot of fun.
"Having my parents and family and friends here was great," said Kelley, who graduated from San Antonio's St. Mary's Hall, a top academic school. "It's great being home. I had some green enchiladas [Wednesday night] and the Princeton team is going on a river boat ride [Thursday]. It's great having all of my teammates I've been fencing with for years, finally in my hometown."
Kelley, a returning All-American, and two-time Ivy League competitor, started fencing at age nine with the late French teacher Gerard Poujardieu. He later trained with the late Paul Pesthy, who competed for the United States in Olympic modern pentathlon.
"The training was held in a home-built shack out in the Hill Country," Kelley said of his experience with Pesthy. "We would go out and fence on these three little strips in a long room.
Kelley, a computer science major, will graduate from Princeton in June. He plans to work in New York for a start-up company, working in software development.