March 24, 2017 at 1:08 p.m.
At the Fargo-Moorhead High School Invitational, both Cull and Thibodeau won medals for finishing in the top three in Foil and Epee at the Saturday High School event. But the big result that weekend came when Alec Cull finished 3rd out of 16 fencers at the USFA Open tournament on Sunday and, as a result, earned his E2017 USFA Classification in Foil. Foil fencers wear a metallic vest and hits with the point of the weapon can only be scored on the torso of the body. Cull’s goal at the start of this fencing season was to get a USFA foil rating, so this was a big day for Alec after training and competing for several years.
United States Fencing Association (USFA) classifications are specific to the event in which the classification is earned – Foil, Epee, or Saber. Classifications are identified by the level (A-E) and year earned. Classifications are used primarily to seed fencers in competitions. The majority of fencers are rated as Unclassified. Typically to earn a classification, there must be several classified fencers in a tournament, and the fencer getting classified must finish ahead of one or more fencers of a higher classification level in the tournament final round. The higher a fencer goes up the classification rankings, the harder this is to do.
U.S. Junior Olympic Fencing Championships
The USFA is the U.S. arm of the International Fencing Federation that governs worldwide fencing including Olympic and World competition. The Junior Olympics and Junior World Championships are part of that world-level competition. The U.S. Junior Olympic (JO) Championships are one of the national circuit events used to select the U.S. Junior Olympic Team. Fred Thibodeau had his first opportunity to compete at the U.S. Junior Olympic Championships after qualifying in December. Thibodeau competed at JOs in both the Under-20 Junior Epee Championship and the Under-17 Cadet Epee Championship. The Epee is the largest of the three fencing weapons and hits with the point can be scored anywhere on the body.
The JO National Championships (held February 16-20 in Kansas City) brought together the very best young fencers from across America. In his first round in the Under-20 Junior event, Thibodeau, who has a C2016 classification, had to face two A-Class and three B-Class fencers. Thibodeau advanced to the Direct Elimination second round where he lost to a fencer from Ohio State University and placed 203 out of 301 competitors. In the Under-17 Cadet event, Thibodeau advanced to the Direct Elimination third round and placed 127 out of 263 competitors. During the tournament, Thibodeau competed against fencers from California, Texas, New York City, New Jersey, Connecticut, Philadelphia, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Illinois, Nevada, and Vermont.
Minnesota High School Fencing Championships
The next challenge for Thibodeau and Cull was the Minnesota High School Fencing Championships on February 25th. The 2017 tournament was attended by 166 high school fencers representing over 40 public and private schools. In Foil, Cull finished 16th out of 50 fencers. In Epee, Thibodeau finished 4th out of 36 fencers.
Thibodeau is the first Chisago fencer to ever reach the Final Four at the State Championships. This is the sixth year the Chisago Lakes Fencers team has competed at the High School State Championships. Over those six years, the team has had fencers medal by reaching the final eight twice in Men’s Foil, twice in Women’s Epee, and twice in Men’s Epee.
Following the Championships, both Thibodeau and Cull were selected to the Minnesota All-State Team. All-State selections are based on combined results in a series of high school fencing tournaments over the season. Fred Thibodeau was selected Minnesota First Team All-State for the second year in a row in Men’s Epee. Thibodeau’s overall season ranking was Number two in Minnesota behind State Champion Matthew Davis. Alec Cull was awarded a 2017 Minnesota Third Team All-State selection for finishing Number 9 overall in Men’s Foil.
Cull and Thibodeau have been fencing for several years in the program offered through Chisago Lakes Community Education. The Chisago Lakes Fencers competition team developed out of the Community Ed program. Beginning and Advanced fencing classes are offered from October through March each year. Participation in the competition team can start once a fencer enters seventh grade.