LONGMONT — Both Carson Singer and Mia Novick tried their hands at a number of different sports before finding their niche.
Whether it was tennis or basketball, no other sport really measured up to the passion they felt for fencing.
The affinity for their new found love has taken them to the pinnacle of their sport in our country, the USA Fencing National Championship in St. Louis from June 28-July 7.
The two have put in countless hours of work over the past year under the direction at coach Tom Strzalkowski at the Fencing Academy of Denver (which also has a Longmont location) and are both hoping it pays off with a potential medal in the Gateway City.
"People compare fencing to physical chess. It's all about outsmarting your opponent and what they are going to do and then react based on that," said Strzalkowski, the lead instructor at the Fencing Academy of Denver.
And it's that mental aspect that first drew Singer, 15, to the sport less than two years ago.
Home schooled, the Longmont resident has visions of attending the United States Air Force Academy, and on a trip to the base Singer sat in on an instructional video that feature the sport and he was hooked.
Singer now trains upwards of four or five times a week, making the trip from Longmont to the Fencing Academies main location in Littleton to not only get the group feel with some of the states best, but also that one-on-one attention with Strzalkowski.
"It's a sport that you have to think in order to do and not one that depends on you running up and tackling a person," said Singer, who along with Novick will compete in the sabre. There are three disciplines in fencing: sabre, foil and epee.
"You have to think to beat your opponent. It's not a sport dependent on physical strength. It doesn't matter your body type, rather whether can I outsmart the person in front of me."
Sabre has been described as the Formula 1 of fencing for its speed and ability of the fencer to make split-second decision in order to score. Each point is over quickly after the two combatants lunge at each other with swords honed in on making a hit tracked by an electronic system they wear.
And Singer has the perfect blend of brains and physical stature — he is tall and lanky — to make an immediate impact on the competition strip.
"If you have a good head on your shoulders you can be a very good fencer," said Strzalkowski, whose resume is full of accolades including an Olympian in 1996 as well as a three-time National Champion at Penn State. "He is still very physical, with his physique and how tall he is, once the coordination comes within a year or two, it's going to be very good for fencing."
Novick, 14 and an incoming freshman at Longmont, has been around the sport for a little bit longer and, aside from hoping that the venue in St. Louis is air conditioned, has her sites set on learning from her past trips and improving her overall standing.
"I'm really confident this year, given I know what I've been doing," said Novick, who also has long term goals in the sport. "I would love to make a college varsity team."
In all Strzalkowski and his academy are taking 31 athletes to St. Louis.
"Every time we go we hope to get medals and that's obviously a high reaching goal, but it is tough because it is nationals and only the top fencers get medals," said Strzalkowski, who knows there will be upwards of 150-200 fencers in each age category. "Whenever we get a medal that is fantastic, but we as coaches want to see improvement. If they've been there before, do they get more victories and as long as they do that, then they should be satisfied."