Ligonier fencers victorious at Keystone Games
The Ligonier Fencing Club has burnished its golden reputation.
Sparked by an ambitious 19-year-old, the club secured three gold medals, one silver and two bronze at the Keystone Games in Harrisburg Aug. 4-5. This performance followed by a month the club’s impressive showing at the U.S. Fencing National Championships, where it finished second in the Senior Team Men’s Epee Division in Anaheim, Calif.
“I was very pleased,” said Norm Flam, coach and founder of the coed club, which accepts almost all ages. “We have a good record at the Keystone Games. The Games are usually the last fencing meet of season, and this was a very successful ending.”
Ben Russell, Kendra Stansak, Keith Presto and son, Sam Presto, won medals, with Russell leading the way with two golds, in Junior Men’s Epee and Senior Men’s Epee.
Stansak was golden in Senior Women’s Epee; Keith Presto earned silver in Veteran Men’s Epee and bronze in Veteran Men’s Foil; and Sam Presto took bronze in Junior Men’s Epee.
For Russell, 19, of Williamsburg, Va., this was the apex of a whirlwind first season with the club. He joined only in January, at the start of his freshman year at Indiana (Pa.) Russell had dabbled in fencing when he was younger, then dropped it until he joined a fencing club at the school. Eventually, he found out about Flam’s organization.
It was a fortuitous choice by Russell, who developed a quick affinity for fencing. He loved the challenges, the techniques of a sport he considered to be a great source of self-improvement.
“You’re responsible if you win or lose,” he said.
He enjoys it so much, he plans to transfer to Penn State and join the Nittany Lions’ heralded program. Penn State has won 12 NCAA fencing championships.
A number of club members didn’t have to wait long to experience top-shelf competition. For many, the Keystone Games were an education.
“We started a bunch of new fencers at that meet,” said Flam, owner of Toy Story Gallery in Ligonier. “They got a feel for what is coming, and I think it changes their attitude. It’s one thing to fence against people from your own club. But when you go to a good-sized meet, they find out what they’re capable of.”
Besides the medal winners, Ligonier Fencing Club was represented by Molly O’Brien, Emma O’Brien, Jacqueline Polkovsky, Michael Walther Jr., Ethan Ganzy, Josh McCue, Robbie Higgins, Anastazia Polakovsky, Kyra Ganzy, Luke Harris, Rachael Kraft, Sean Borris, Lori Harris, Matt Kopchick, Kathyryn Coloccia, Jesse Wallak and Debbie McCue.
For Flam, who started the club in 1998, the Keystone Games was another gratifying experience. He is proud of what his teams have accomplished, especially their multiple successes at the state level.
“That’s not bad if you’re competing against all the clubs from Pittsburgh and Philadelphia,” he said.
Rick Shrum is a freelance writer.