One of the most confusing areas each year is the qualification path for different age groups of fencers. That’s not because of a deficit on your part – it’s because the rules are constantly changing. You barely have a chance to get yourself familiar with last year’s path to the July Challenge for Cadets before finding out that a few short months later it is completely different!
The reason is simple – fencing is an evolving sport in the USA. More and more fencers want to participate in different levels of national competition, so the USFA is continually trying to find the winning formula that will allow it to satisfy several, sometimes contradicting objectives. From one side, the USFA wants to provide the best competitive level of opportunity for high level fencers, but from another side it also wants to provide national level competitive opportunities for a wide range of fencers in every specific age category. So every year the rules change as USFA searches for the perfect mix, leaving fencers and their parents needing to learn the new rules – again.
The truth is you cannot put off your education in the subject of qualification until the end of the season. And relying on other parents to tell you what to do isn’t going to work either, because they might have old information or be confused themselves. As a matter of fact in our own club we have had a few fencers that have gotten the rules completely mixed up and planned to participate in events that were not right for them at all from the qualification perspective.
You need to plan your child’s competitive season from its very start, otherwise you might miss some important qualifying event, decreasing your child’s opportunity to go to that championship they dream of!
While there are several qualifying paths for different age groups and skill levels (among senior fencers), in this post we are going to focus on one of the most changing paths to Junior Olympics Fencing Championship (or short JO’s) and the July Challenge – qualification via the regional path.
There are 3 major age groups for the sake of this exploration of regional qualification:
The first two age groups, youth and cadet/juniors, are only age specific. That means that skill level doesn’t matter at all, only age. The senior group does have skill levels – 4 to be exact. These are: Division 1, Division 2, Division 3 and Division 1A.
While the others are important, in this post we’re going to focus on the Cadet/Junior group of fencers.
A New Concept: RJCC
Last year USFA introduced a new concept – RJCC, which stands for Regional Junior and Cadet Circuit.
What is RJCC? The short explanation is that RJCC is RYC for Cadets and Juniors. Well, almost. There are just a few differences.
- RJCC’s provide qualifying path for both the Junior Olympic Championship in February and for the July Challenge for cadets and juniors.
- While all RYC tournaments have all youth ages (Y10, Y12, Y14), the RJCC tournament is not required to have all of them – there might only be an RCC (Regional Cadet Circuit) or an RJC (Regional Junior Circuit), with each of these of course only catering ot their respective age categories, and can even restrict it to a specific weapon only.
- The top 2 results in each RJCC (per age category, of course), count towards qualifying, unlike in the RYC where the top 3 results count.
Other than these few things, the concept is exactly the same and most important, the concept of regionality is the same.
However this also means that there are several changes from the last year’s RJCC. In particular, two points are major changes: are really worth mentioning.
- Point 1:
A fencer can earn regional points in the cadets or junior category ONLY in their own region.
That’s worth repeating:
You should fence only in your region’s RJCC to earn points towards qualification.
- Point 2:
Every fencer competing in the RJCC earns regional points regardless of their final placement, just like in the RYC (keeping in mind that, per point 1 above, that this is only the case if the fencer belongs to that region of course).
One more clarification to both points: you can fence in any region, and you can even win these tournaments in any region! However, you’ll only get points for those tournaments that you earn within you own region. Still in every region you will have fun!
Finding RJCC’s to Participate in
There are many RJCC’s around the country and the USFA publishes a list of all RJCC’s. Here is the latest list:
To understand which RJCC tournaments your child should fence in, first find those that are held in your region. There are 6 Fencing Regions in the USA, so check out this link to determine what your region you belong to. These events have (Reg X) after their name in the list.
Based on your child’s age, decide which competitions you want to participate at. If your child is of a cadet’s age, he or she can go to both cadet and junior events, and thus your fencer will be age eligible for all J/C variations: RJCC (which has events for both age categories), RCC (for cadets only) and RJC (for juniors only). However, if your fencer is junior, only RJC or junior events of the RJCC will be right for them.
Search those events on askFred, and if these events are already published there, then note which exact dates are your fencer’s events. Pay attention to the exact dates, times and locations, considering inbound and outbound travel dates as well and based on that see whether you can budget for this trip, both in terms of finances and vacation/off-school time. If yes, then go ahead and book your trip and sign up!
The Junior Olympics and July Challenge RJCC Qualifying
Last year when the USFA introduced RJCC events, they served only as a qualification path to the Junior Olympics. The earned points also were global and the top 32 in the country earned their right to go to the JOs. Thus the last RJCC in the season was held in the beginning of January to accommodate this qualification process.
This year the USFA decided to expand the role of RJCCs and to have them serve as a qualification path for both JO’s and the July Challenge.
The change didn’t stop only at that! Other changes include:
- Points are regional, not global
- Top 25% of regional fencers in their respective age category will qualify for JOs
- Top 50% of regional fencers in their respective age category will qualify for the July Challenge
The last RJCC which will be considered to be a JO qualification and will be held no later than January 11, 2016. So to give yourself a fair chance to try to qualify for JO’s, go to at least 2 RJCC’s in your region before that date.
For the July Challenge qualification you have slightly more time – until the last RJCC in your region is held. That bracket is also twice as big – 50% of the regional fencers on the regional list will qualify. So if you completely missed the opportunity for the JO’s, do not go desperate – continue to attend your regional RJCC’s and who knows, maybe you will fulfill your dream!
One last point. It is important to note that the JOs are considered to be the USA Fencing Championship for Cadets and Juniors, and thus only US Citizens or Permanent Residents are eligible to fence there.
However the July Challenge has the same status as an NAC (in fact it is actually and NAC with a qualification path), and thus any nationality can fence there. There are few more ways to qualify for the JO and for the July Challenge, such as by having respective national points or being in top 25% of JO’s Divisional qualifiers. But for many fencers, the regional path is the best way to get there.
Hopefully this post shed some light on the slightly confusing subject of regional paths as a way to qualify for Nationals and the July Challenge. While it all might seem like a lot of confusion at glance, once you start planning your fencer’s season it will all eventually sink in.