En gard: STJ fencing champs ready for next challenge

Red Storm senior Cooper Schumacher wrapped up his college career with an NCAA championship, a perfect finish for the fencing star.
St. John’s Athletics
By Laura Amato

There hasn’t been much time to celebrate.

St. John’s fencing stars Andras Nemeth and Cooper Schumacher each clinched an NCAA championship in March, wrapping up the collegiate season at the top of the men’s foil and epee categories respectively, but neither Red Storm standout has had more than a moment to sit back and think about the accomplishment. In fact, they’re already getting ready for the next one.

“I haven’t had that much time to reflect because my season’s not really over,” Schumacher said. “It’s over for the collegiate season, but I still have competitions that are leading up to world championships in July, so it’s kind of just back to work.”

Nemeth and Schumacher, despite the lack of post-title celebration, still managed to make a bit of history with their victories.

Nemeth became the first Red Storm foil fencer to ever win an individual national championship, while Schumacher, in his final NCAA event, earned his first-ever medal and All-American honor.

The road to gold, however, was distinctly different for the two athletes.

Nemeth grew up around fencing, following in his older brother’s footsteps, and making his way to St. John’s was the next logical step.

“There was an opportunity to go to St. John’s and I was, like, ‘Why not?’ ” he said. “So I thought it would be a big adventure. It’s super different than being at home, so I really wanted to try it. I don’t regret it.”

Schumacher, on the other hand, stumbled into fencing in high school and didn’t see a future in the sport at first.

“I was 15 and I picked it up in high school as an after-school program,” the New Jersey native said. “I didn’t want to do it at first, but I kind of ended up doing it to keep me out of trouble. I had a kind of natural talent and I started doing it well without taking it too seriously. So I started working with a coach in his driveway that summer and then it really picked up from there.”

Now, a month removed from their NCAA titles, Schumacher and Nemeth are ready for the next challenge – which will take place in the classroom.

“I have finals and all my attention is on that now,” Nemeth said. “Then, right after that, I’ll go home back to Hungary for practice because it seems like I’ll go to the European World Championships. Then, the end of August, I’ll have the University games, so I won’t be bored.”

Schumacher, meanwhile, has a jam-packed schedule of his own, as he will be crossing the globe in the next few weeks with training sessions and competitions in France, Colorado Springs and Colombia. He’s also planning to graduate college in the middle of all of that.

“It’s not easy, but St. John’s offers a great academic support system that helps me manage this,” Schumacher said. “It allows me some leeway and I can get everything done before I get back into the competition.”

There have been moments, for both Schumacher and Nemeth, when they didn’t particularly enjoy fencing, challenges in and out of the competition that were never easy to overcome, but through it all, both standouts have realized something important – this sport is everything to them.

No matter how they got here, or how little time they had to celebrate championships, neither Schumacher nor Nemeth would change anything and they’re ready for whatever comes next.

“There were moments when I wasn’t the best,” Nemeth said. “There were two or three times in my career, however, when I just wanted to stop. I didn’t think I could keep going, but it didn’t take long to realize that I couldn’t give up. This is my life.”

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