by Alysse Schultheis
On Saturday, February 1 the Sewanee Fencing Society had more team members compete than ever before this season at the Music City Open at the Vanderbilt Recreation Center. Competing in Mixed Foil were Trey Kennedy (T’16), Jess Johnson (C’15), Witt Sellers (C’15), Taylor Morris (C’16), and Alysse Schultheis (C’16).
Johnson and Morris also competed in Mixed Éppé, and they were both one match away from receiving a national rating. Ratings are a system of classification for United States Fencing Association (USFA) fencers, and when a fencer first joins the USFA they are classified as “U,” or Unrated. There are six different ratings in the USFA, U (the lowest rating), E, D, C, B, and A (the highest rating). In order to attain a higher rating, fencers must place in an official tournament which contains a certain amount of competitors, and those competitors must contain a certain amount of fencers ranked above a U. Therefore it is not that easy to attain a rating above U. Competing in Mixed Saber were Norris Eppes (C’14) and Brian Reiss (C’17), and this was Reiss’ first competition since earning his E2013 rating in saber at the Vanderbilt Cumberland Open last November. The whole team made an excellent effort and Kennedy finished the day by winning Mixed Foil, earning his D2014 rating.
This is the first time Kennedy has been a D rated fencer in about seven years. Kennedy was enrolled in the Great Books Program at St.John’s College for his undergraduate studies, which unfortunately kept him from participating in a lot of rated tournaments. After college, he worked in a coffee shop for a while and only had enough time and money to attend a couple of tournaments that year. Kennedy still attempted to fence as much as he could in order to practice, but that became even more difficult when he was in Americorps and rarely had time fence due to working 40-60 hours a week. When he finally did have time last year, Kennedy said that “Montana didn’t hold enough tournaments or have enough rated fencers for it to be easy to earn a rating.” Coming to Sewanee and being a part of the Sewanee Fencing team gave Kennedy the opportunity to focus more on fencing, and the Music City Open allowed him to show the progress he has made.
Kennedy’s first match in the Direct Eliminations (D.E.) was unfortunately with Morris, so the very first bout placed two Sewanee fencers against each other. Morris fenced his best, but the match went to Kennedy with a final score of 15-5. Kennedy won his next D.E. match 15-2, but the following bout proved to be more of a challenge. Going up against Robert (Skip) Aymett (C’12), a D2013 rated fencer in Foil, was more difficult since Aymett was the first seat going into the D.E.s and is also a left-handed fencer. Kennedy says that “training with [his] friend Robert Kirkland, who is tall and left-handed, last year in Montana really helped.” Aymett was able to score around five to eight points, but Kennedy took the lead and won the match. After that, Kennedy was able to wrap up his last two matches, winning the final bout 15-2. In the end, the Music City Open was the “the end of a long journey” for Kennedy, and he is “going to take some time before trying to go for [his] next rating.”