Five Academy fencers qualify for NCAA fencing championships

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Five Air Force Academy fencers have qualified for the 2010 National Collegiate Men's and Women's Fencing Championships. The field of 144 competitors will compete at Harvard University on March 25 to 28. The last time the Falcons had five qualifiers was in 2007.

Making his fourth trip is senior Peter French, a native of Austin, Texas. Last week, French won the 2010 Western Regional individual men's epee title at UC San Diego after defeating Kevin Mo from Stanford, 14-13. The win was the third region title of French's career. He currently has a 166-49 career record. An All-American, French finished seventh at the 2009 national championships.

Also selected to participate in 2010 is junior Daniel Trapani from Houston. Trapani has qualified for the national championships three times. In 2009, he was fifth and earned All-American honors in men's epee. At the 2010 NCAA Western Regional Championships, he was fourth and finished with an 8-3 record. His career record is 145-44.

Nick Stockdale, a junior from Lansdowne, Pa., qualified for his first trip to the NCAAs. Earlier, he finished second in the individual men's foil Western Regional Championships. Throughout his career, Stockdale has amassed an impressive 92-33 career record.

For the first time since 2005, the Academy will be represented by two women fencers, sophomore Simone Barrette, who competed in 2009, and freshman Heather Nelson, who is making her first appearance at the NCAAs. In 2009, Barrette, from Louisville, Ky., finished 23rd in the individual women's epee championships. At the 2010 NCAA Western Regional Championships, she was 7-1 and was second in women's epee. She currently has a 70-34 career record.

Nelson, from Clifton Park, N.Y., is the Falcons' individual women's saber qualifier. She won both the Nick Toth Open and the Falcon Open saber titles and tied for third place at the North American Cup Junior Women's Saber Championships in 2009. Nelson has quickly amassed a 30-7 collegiate record. She won the women's title at the regional championships recently.

"I am very sure that they will do their best to make the Air Force Academy proud," said head coach Abdel Salem. "They have the skill and the talent to do well; it is just a matter of how they will deal with the pressure of each bout and the tournament as a whole. It is a very long tournament with 23 bouts against the best fencers in the country."

The National Collegiate Men's and Women's Fencing Championships include individual events in each of the six weapons: women's foil, women's epee, women's saber, men's foil, men's epee, men's saber. Fencers will compete in a round-robin format of five-touch bouts.

After the round-robin, the top-four fencers fence semifinal 15-touch bouts, with the winners fencing to determine first and second places, and the losers being awarded a tie for third place. Absolute ties for the seeding will be broken as follows: for positions one through three, by a coin toss; for position four, by a fence-off. An institution's place finish in the championships will be based on points earned by each individual. A team will be awarded one point for each victory by its student-athletes for duration of the championships.