“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
More than 20 years after they were first uttered, those immortal lines remain one of the highlights of the eternally popular comedy/romance/action classic The Princess Bride. And while just about everybody who has ever seen the movie enjoyed it, Nicole Ross went a step further and decided to emulate its swashbuckling heroes.
Now, more than a decade after she first picked up a sword at age 9 and followed Inigo Montoya’s path, Ross is one of the best young fencers in the country and a standout on a strong Columbia University squad.
“I was a very active child,” said Ross, a lifelong Upper West Sider and graduate of Columbia Prep. “I did gymnastics, swimming, track, horseback riding and basketball. But nothing really clicked until I tried fencing.”
That’s a good thing for Columbia. During her first two years, Ross was named First Team All-Ivy twice and finished third and then fifth in consecutive years at the NCAA Championships. This season she also helped her team place fourth nationally and made the All-Ivy Academic Team. Most recently, she has returned from Belfast, Northern Ireland, where she led the U.S. women’s foil team to the title at the Junior World Championships.
“It was the biggest thing so far for me,” Ross said. “It was my third world championships. I went in 2006 and in 2008. I was a veteran on the team. I really had the tournament of my life. It was unreal for me.”
Next in her sights is an NCAA title, which has closely eluded her through her first two collegiate seasons. But her aims are even more ambitious than that.
“My short-term goals are to fence more at a senior level now that I’ve aged out of juniors,” Ross said. “I’d like to win NCAAs. I’d like to have a really great season as a team. And my biggest goal is the Olympics in 2012. It’s just something that everyone always dreams about.”
Sure, the Olympics are nice. But how about swordplay and adventure in foreign lands with Inigo, Fezzik, Westley and all the rest from The Princess Bride?
“I think I’ve given that up moving into adulthood,” she said with a laugh.
Ross was hardly the lone local fencer at Columbia this season. Trinity graduates the Finkel sisters, Kelsey and Tess, both competed, with the latter making the All-Ivy and All-Ivy Academic Team in the epee. Narine Atamian (Chapin) completed her freshman season, while Dwight Smith (Dwight) finished 22nd at the NCAA Championships in the epee.
Elsewhere in the Ivy League, Emily Cross (Brearley) returned from the Summer Olympics for her senior season at Harvard and finished third in the nation as a foilist, making the third All-American Team of her brilliant career. Princeton’s Lucile Jarry (Lycee Francais) made an impressive collegiate debut by placing 14th in the foil at the NCAA Championships, where teammate Mike Elfassy (Hunter) was 13th in the epee. Other members of the Princeton squad included Nathaniel Sulat (Trevor Day) and Bianca Cabrera (Dwight). At Yale, two Trinity graduates stood out. Katherine Pitt was a Second Team All-American after finishing eighth nationally in the foil, and Nathaniel Botwinick earned 13th place with the foil as well at the Northeast Regionals. Cornell’s Rebecca Hirschfeld (Horace Mann) and Gwen Waichman (Riverdale) were 14th and 20th, respectively, at the same event. Gabrielle Nagler (Spence) fenced for the University of Pennsylvania.
Around the city, Gideon Schon (Ramaz) and Victoria Dominguez (St. Vincent Ferrer) fenced for New York University, while Helen Dang (LaGuardia) competed for Hunter College. Further south, Chris Byrne (Birch Wathen Lenox) complete his sophomore season at Stevens Institute of Technology.
At Brandeis, Alexandra Dalrymple (LaGuardia) went 34-12 as a foilist and finished 25th at the Northeast Regionals. Haverford’s Max Rosen-Long (Beacon) won the gold medal at the New England Intercollegiate Fencing Conference Championships and finished second in team foil. He also placed 28th at the Mid-Atlantic/South Regionals. Michelle Gulino (Sacred Heart) went 3-1 in foil at Johns Hopkins. And Ariel Stein (Riverdale) had a great freshman season at Northwestern with the foil by finishing seventh at the Midwest Conference Championships. She was 32nd at the National Junior Olympics and had an overall record of 33-5.
Finally, The University of North Carolina hosted two local fencers, May-Lynne Chen-Contino (Horace Mann) and Alex Grigorenko (Beacon). Grigorenko finished ninth at the Mid-Atlantic/South Regionals, one spot from qualifying for the national championships, and helped the foil team finish first at the Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Fencing Association Championships.
Other Winter Sports—There were local three wrestlers competing at the college level this winter. Ryan Baxter (Hunter) grappled at Hunter College at 174 pounds. Mike Leon (Collegiate) flip-flopped between 165 and 174 for Williams. And Leon’s former Collegiate teammate Adam Stevens went 12-23 as a freshman 125-pounder at Johns Hopkins, recording one pin, one technical fall and three major decisions.
Four local students played horseback sports. The Goutal sisters (Professional Children’s School), Brianne and Clementine, were members of the equestrian team at Brown. Cornell’s Max and Ariana Constant (Horace Mann) had a big impact as members of the polo team. Max was named to the All-Tournament Team for the Eastern Regional and scored 12 goals to lead his squad into the National Championships. Cornell reached the semifinals and finished with a 16-5 overall record. Ariana and the women’s team went 22-1 and finished as national runners-up.
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