In just three months, the fencing community will gather for the highly anticipated Junior Olympics (JO’s) during the Presidents’ Weekend in Charlotte, NC (2/16-19/2024). Beyond being the pinnacle of Cadet and Juniors National Championships, JO’s serve as the ultimate proving ground for athletes vying to secure their place in the national teams bound for the 2024 Cadet and Junior Fencing World Championships.
A lot of parents and fencers, especially those who are new to the JO’s, such as those who just aged into the cadet and junior categories, are still confused somewhat about the JO’s and what options they still have to make it there. The following post is a quick summary of major points you need to know about how to still qualify. Take a look at these, get acquainted with different options, and of course, talk to your coach about what makes sense for you.
To participate in JO’s, fencers fall into two age categories: Cadet (born from 2007 to 2010) and Junior (born from 2004 to 2010). Now, let’s delve into the paths leading to qualification.
There are three distinct qualification paths for any fencer to secure a coveted spot at the JO’s. These paths include the national, regional, and divisional routes, each offering a unique trajectory toward the Junior Olympics (BTW, it is pretty similar to most of the nationals, so once you get the idea how qualification works for any of the national championships, you will quickly understand any other).
Exclusive to National-level tournaments such as NAC, SJCC, JO’s, and Summer Nationals in their respective age categories. An in-depth exploration of National Points can be found in my dedicated blog. Mark your calendars for the upcoming national events crucial for JO’s qualification: December NAC (Division 1 events) and adjacent to it SJCC (“regional” type of event that awards national points to Cadet and Junior categories), and January NAC (Junior and Division 1 events). Please note that while the regular fees deadline is already over, if you decide that going to these two NACs is on your wishlist, you can still register for them for a triple fee. And as of this writing, the November NAC is ongoing right now in Fort Worth, TX, so if you earn your national points there then you are qualified for the JO’s (and double congratulations with both becoming a ranked fencer and qualifying for the JO’s!)
Embarking on the journey to snag regional points for Cadet and Junior categories involves active participation in your region’s Regional Junior and Cadet Circuit (RJCC). The RJCC season kicks off post-Junior Olympics and winds down around the beginning of January, aligning with the JO’s qualification deadline (set for January 11, 2024, this year). The RJCC competitions that matter most for JO’s start in March and conclude in December.
Calculating regional points for Cadet and Juniors requires summing up the two best results from all RJCC competitions in respective events during this period. It’s crucial to note that, unlike other regional tournaments, RJCC events span the boundaries of fencing seasons. Some take place in the spring of 2023, wrapping up the 2022-2023 fencing season, while others unfold in the fall of 2023, marking the beginning of the 2023-2024 fencing season. This unique timing aligns with the Cadet and Junior season, stretching from JO’s to JO’s, coinciding with the Cadet and Junior World Championships, typically held in April.
This intricate dance through seasons adds a layer of complexity, making RJCC competitions a vital terrain to conquer for those eyeing a spot in the Junior Olympics.
A minimum of 110 points in your age group (C or J) is required for JO’s qualification. Check your child’s regional points by logging into your USFA profile and navigating to the dashboard (which has a lot of important information, and in general, it is a good idea to get acquainted with it).
The final frontier, the Divisional Qualifier, stands as the last resort for fencers seeking a golden ticket to the Junior Olympics. This one-shot event necessitates a top 25% finish in the respective category to secure a coveted spot at the JO’s.
A crucial detail to bear in mind is that in Divisional Qualifiers, fencers can only participate in the Division to which they are assigned. For some, this assignment is a straightforward process, with only one Division option available when registering for a USFA membership. However, for others, especially those in regions with murkier geographical divisions, like the San Francisco Bay Area, things can get a bit tricky.
Consider this: the USFA might assign a fencer in the San Francisco Bay Area to a Division called “Central California” due to historical reasons, despite the geographical alignment that all Californians used is “Northern California.” For unsuspecting parents registering their child for a USA Fencing membership, the natural choice may be “Northern California,” oblivious to the finer details relevant mostly during qualifiers.
This seemingly innocuous oversight has led to scenarios where a fencer arrives at a Divisional qualifier only to face rejection due to the wrong Division assignment. The same dilemma unfolds for those whose house is located in one division while their club is situated in another. This is also a common scenario in the South Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area: we have families who live close to the city itself, which belongs to Northern California but they train with AFM, which belongs to Central California. This prompts a recommendation: opt for your club’s division during registration. Not only does this align with the geographical accuracy of your club, but it also increases the likelihood of your club sending a coach to support you during the critical qualifiers. And the second recommendation is to check your fencer’s Division now and verify that it aligns with their fencing club before you sign up for the Divisional Qualifier. Also, it is important to note that Divisional Qualifiers are published on the askFred.net platform.
Navigating the Final Stretch
As the qualification cycle enters its final two months, certain regions continue to host regional competitions. Explore available events in your region here. Scrutinize your current qualification status, and explore strategic last-minute solutions to ensure your coveted spot at JO’s. As always, your best advisor in this matter is your coach.
Embark on a successful qualification journey, and may the fencing odds be ever in your favor at the Junior Olympics! Your path to JO’s is not merely a quest for medals but a journey that fortifies your commitment to the sport, your club, and the thriving fencing community. As the JO’s draw near, let this guide be your compass, navigating you through the intricacies of qualification with confidence and determination.