Written by Phil Cerroni
Fencers stretched and warmed up at the dawn hour in the Irving Convention Center as parents sat holding cups of Starbucks coffee, munching on pastries pulled from brown paper sacks at their feet. Some of the adults looked dazed, wondering how in the world they had ended up huddled on the concrete floor of a convention center in Texas on Labor Day 2013.
They came for the North Texas Super Youth Circuit and Cadet Tournament, Aug. 31 to Sep. 1. Hosted by the North Texas Fencing Tournament Coalition (NTFTC), it drew competitors from as far as Maine and California nationally, and Puerto Rico and China abroad, to compete in one of the three disciplines of Olympic fencing: foil, epee or saber. Almost 575 12 to 16-year-olds competed during the three day tournament in 830 events.
Young fencers travel the great distances to these tournaments, because they constitute one of the few chances for competitors to qualify for national tournaments in the United States.
Fencers under the age of 14 only need to participate in one circuit tournament to qualify for nationals. Older participants need to be in the top 40 percent of their age group in order to qualify, so they tour the country from tournament to tournament in order to rack up enough points.
Last year’s nationals hosted roughly 1,200 youth fencers said Brenda Waddoups, bout manager for the Labor Day tournament and a member of the board at Fencing Institute of Texas (FIT) one of the members of NTFTC.
Eleven-year-old Loralyn Sander’s mother, Amy, was relieved that, at least for one weekend, they were playing a tournament close to home. The family travels out of state at least once a month so Loralyn can compete, Amy said.
Even when they remain in the Metroplex, Loralyn, who trains at FIT, keeps herself on a demanding three to four hour practice regimen six days a week.