San Jose McEnery Convention Center will be home to 2015 US Summer National Fencing Championship that includes July Challenge for Division 1, Juniors and Cadets

San Jose McEnery Convention Center will be home to 2015 US Summer National Fencing Championship

This post is for fencers who currently compete in the Division 1, Junior, and Cadet age groups, or plan to at the 2015 Fencing Summer Nationals. Those of us in Northern California have been getting excited about having Summer Nationals so close to home in 2015. For the impacted age groups, I’m sure you’ve all been hearing about the new USFA July Challenge at Summer Nationals and that many of you have questions about this change.

From a high level, the change is a bit frustrating in that all Summer Nationals events for these age groups will require qualification by national points (or “Points-Based Qualification” [PBQ]). That just means we need to step up our game and do our best to earn national points!

This post will explain in more detail about the new challenge and how to qualify, as well as how to earn national points for the remainder of this fencing season.

What is July Challenge?

In the past, what we call “Summer Nationals” has included North American Cups (NACs) for the Division 1, Junior, and Cadet age groups. As you may or may not know, NACs do not require qualification. In the past, this often led fencers to sign up for multiple competitions during Summer Nationals. For example, a 13-year-old, C-rated fencer could qualify for the Y14 Championship and then also sign up for any of the three NACs. I mean, once you travel to compete, you might as well fence as much as you can, right? Right. So, over time, the NACs continued to get larger as more fencers signed up for multiple competitions.

Well, last year’s Summer Nationals in Ohio had so many participants that it completely broke all of the records! Events went late into the night—some until midnight—and the tournament ran completely off schedule. It’s great that fencing continues to grow in popularity in the U.S., but that also means the competition gets tougher.

To address the overwhelming size of the competitions last year, the USFA has decided that this year it will replace these July NACs with a new competition: the “July Challenge.” Notice that it is not termed a “championship” because it isn’t one, and unlike NACs, you do have to qualify for this event. This means the fencing field will be tougher and the challenge will provide high-quality competition for the fencers that attend. It also means it will be harder to get there. It’s up to us to rise to the challenge (no pun intended).

How to Qualify for the July Challenge?

I know many of our fencers in these age groups are anxious to understand how to qualify for this tournament. Well, the short version is that you either need to be on the NRPS for the specific age category that you want to qualify for (Cadet, Junior, Senior), or be ranked quite high in the age categories below it.

Here’s a breakdown of the details, and you can also view the full list of rules on the USFA page linked above.

Where you should be to qualify for Division 1 Juniors Cadets
Senior National Points (NRPS) Top 100% (i.e., just have points)
Junior National Points (NRPS) Top 24 Top 100% (i.e., just have points)
Cadet National Points (NRPS) Top 16 Top 50% Top 100% (i.e., just have points)
Y14 National Points (NRPS) n/a Top 25% Top 50%
Division 1A Regional Points Top 8 n/a n/a
Division 2 Regional Points Top 4 n/a n/a

In a nutshell, the importance of national points is high if you want to participate. The only way for Seniors, Cadets, and Juniors to earn nationals points is to attend NACs or championships—but it’s not easy. The competition level is high and the number of events is low. Unfortunately, this does mean that many fencers that planned to fence in the July NAC will now have a tougher time making it to Summer Nationals.

Thankfully, the USFA plans to introduce a new option for the 2015-2016 season where points earned at RJCC events can qualify a fencer for the July Challenge. At RJCC events, points are awarded to either the top 40% of finishers or up to 32nd place in the age category (Cadet or Junior), whichever includes fewer fencers. So next year this will be viable path to the new July Challenge!

We understand that this change presents some challenges to fencers who were hoping to compete at the 2015 Summer Nationals, but aren’t sure if they can meet the qualification for the new July Challenge. The best thing you can do is get signed up for the remaining RJCCs and fence your best! As always, we are available for any questions or concerns, and you can also view the USFA FAQ here.

Note: This post originally stated that RJCC points would count towards the July Challenge in the current 2014-2015 season. This inaccuracy has now been corrected.