Two North Carolina fencers, Sam Austin and Gillian Litynski, will compete at the NCAA Fencing Championships March 20-24 at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. Litynski, competing in women's sabre, will fence Thursday and Friday. Austin, in men's sabre, will fence on Saturday and Sunday.
"This is the third time Gill has been there and the second time for Sam - I think they're ready," UNC coach Ron Miller said. "They've worked for it all year, they're excited to go. It should be a good tournament for both of them."
The women's competition begins at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday with the championship bouts set for 1:30 on Friday. Men's fencing starts at 9:30 a.m. Saturday and the championships are set for 1:45 p.m. Sunday. The semifinal and championships bouts will air live on ESPN3. Live stats for the entire event are available at www.ncaa.com/fencing.
Litynski, a junior from Niskayuna, N.Y., finished third overall last year, earning All-America honors, and 18th as a freshman. Austin, a senior from Dix Hills, N.Y., finished 20th in 2013.
"The entire season I've just been working as hard as I possibly could," Austin said. "I knew it was my last season and I didn't know how much more fencing I'm going to do after this, so I knew I had to leave it all out there. I've been training hard and have had a lot confidence all season and it's all led up to this weekend."
According to Miller, consistency will be the key for both Tar Heels. "It's two days, 23 bouts, and every bout counts," he said. "Some of the people are going to be harder, some are going to be easier, but nobody is a pushover so they have to have concentration and focus all the way through."
For Litynski, this season has been much different than her first two as a Tar Heel. She spent the fall semester studying global health in Israel, so she didn't start competing until January.
"My season didn't start off as strong this year as it had in other years, but once I started lifting again and training with the team it didn't take too long to come back to me, especially since I had done work while I was abroad," she said. "By the time I was at regionals I think I was back to where I should be in the season. I'm feeling OK now. I knew going abroad might cost my fencing, but I thought it was an experience that would be worth it."
Miller believes she'll fare well for the third year. "She maybe doesn't feel as ready as she could be," he said, "but she is."
Litynski is 52-14 this season and finished sixth at Mid-Atlantic/South Regionals on March 8. Austin, 48-18, took eighth at regionals to earn another shot at the championships.
"I'm so appreciative for my coaches helping me out," Austin said. "They've worked really hard with me all season. I've definitely had some down days, some off practices, some days when I was like couldn't focus, but they got me going again and talked to me and helped me about. So I've got to hand it to them.
"I'm so excited. I loved being at the tournament last year and I just can't wait to go there again. I'll get to see my parents, too, and that's always fun."