Petra Khan had an idea she was headed to her first NCAA Fencing Championships, but she wasn’t sure.
When the senior sabre saw her name on the list of participants as she scrolled down the NCAA’s website March 15, she knew her four years of hard work had paid off.
“I’ve been so close the last couple of years,” Khan said. “It was frustrating. I really put a lot of energy and time to ensure that I would qualify this year.”
Khan, senior foil Demi Antipas and senior epee Jessica Hall all competed at their first NCAA championships on Thursday and Friday at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts.
The trio was joined by sophomore epee Safa Ibrahim, who finished 17th in her second time competing in the event.
Khan finished 19th in sabre, while Antipas and Hall finished 23rd and 21st in their events, respectively. Each weapon had 24 competitors.
“It was very relieving because it’s a really good way to go out,” Khan said. “That’s the end goal for anybody on this team, to make it to nationals. If that can be your last collegiate tournament, then that’s the best way to go out.”
“I had an image of what it would be like, and it pretty much fit that image,” she added. “It was just a lot of fun.”
As a team the Owls finished 11th out of 21 women’s teams with 30 points at their last event of the season.
Last year, Temple had two fencers at the event—Ibrahim and senior foil Fatima Largaespada, who missed out on the tournament this year. The two combined to place Temple 16th in points in 2015, five spots lower than the Owls’ finish this year.
“We were very happy to have four girls qualify,” coach Nikki Franke said. “Especially since three of them were seniors and it was their first time qualifying for NCAAs. It was very exciting and very rewarding.”
Ibrahim made her second trip to the NCAA championships in as many years with the program. She finished 16th in epee last year.
“For her age, her level of being able to deal with pressure and compete on such a high standard consistently, that’s such a huge accomplishment,” Khan said. “Everybody in the NCAA and the fencing world knows that she’s a great fencer and that she works so hard on and off the strip to get what she needs done.”
Franke said the sophomore, who placed ninth at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic/South Regional on March 12, has the potential to improve next year.
“She has to keep working hard, she has to keep going to competitions and she has to become a little bit more confident in her own field and her own capabilities,” Franke said. “She’s a very unassuming person and sometimes that works against you in competition. She has to gain that confidence and trust in her own instinct.”
Temple finished its regular season with a 24-14 record in open tournaments. The team faced a number of top team finishers at the NCAA championships throughout the season like Columbia University, Penn State and the University of Notre Dame, who finished first, second and third, respectively.
Franke said the scheduling was intentional to get her fencers ready for the NCAA championships.
“We had a very tough schedule and I think that prepared them,” Franke said. “We faced probably the strongest schedule or one of the strongest schedules of any team in the country. One of the nice things was everyone there we had seen.”
Owen McCue can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Owen_McCue.
Correction: In a previous version of this story it said the Owls finished 16th out of 25 teams at this year’s NCAA championships and 22nd in 2015. Those numbers included men’s fencing teams. In fact the Owls finished 11th out of 21 women’s team competing at the NCAA championships this season and 18th last season.