13-year-old fencer from St. George heading to nationals for 3rd straight year

ST. GEORGE — Caidan Cooper, a 13-year-old athlete from St. George, will be competing at the USA Fencing National Championships for the third straight year.

Caidan Cooper (left) during a practice match with coach Parker Miner at Utah Fencing Academy, St. George, Utah, June 25, 2019 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

This year’s tournament is in Columbus, Ohio, starting Friday and continuing to July 7. The event is expected to attract a record 5,400 fencers of all ages from around the country.

Cooper previously competed at nationals in Salt Lake City in 2017 and at St. Louis, Missouri, in 2018. Last year, Cooper finished 88th in the country in Y12 men’s foil for youth age 12 and under. This year, he will compete in Y14 men’s foil, which is scheduled to take place July 5 and feature as many as 350 athletes.

Cooper will also be taking part in a team foil event at nationals as a member of Utah Sport Fencing’s senior team. That competition is scheduled for Sunday.

Parker Miner, Cooper’s coach at Utah Fencing Academy in St. George, explained the team competition involves groups of three fencers (plus one alternate) facing off against each other, round-robin style, with the winner being the first team to reach 45 points.

Miner said unlike last year, he won’t be accompanying Cooper and his parents to the national tournament this year. Instead, Cooper will be traveling with a group from Orem under the tutelage of Julie Seal, one of Miner’s former coaches as well as a former USA Olympic Fencing Team alternate.

Caidan Cooper (far left) and fellow fencers at a training camp in Orem, Utah, June 2019 | Photo courtesy of Jerry Cooper, St. George News

Cooper and several other young athletes participated in the rigorous Utah Sport Fencing Training Camp led by Seal from June 17-21 in Orem. 

Cooper also qualified for a third event at nationals, the cadet men’s foil for ages 13-16, based on his bronze-medal finish at a recent regional meet in Salt Lake City. However, he has opted to skip the cadet competition to focus on his other two events.

“He’s older, he’s stronger, he has more confidence. We expect for him to do well,” said Caidan Cooper’s mother Kimberly Cooper. “He’s going to give it 100%, as he always does.”

“I’m just excited to go out and compete at a higher level,” Caidan Cooper said during practice Tuesday night. He spent the better part of his last practice before nationals sparring with coach Miner and fellow fencing student Griffin Walker, 16, another top-ranked local fencer who will be a junior at Pine View High this fall.

Caidan Cooper, who has only been fencing for a little over three years, has recently taken up another new sport, running track as a sprinter.

Caidan Cooper and 4×100 relay teammates at a track meet in St. George, Utah, May 10-11, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Jerry Cooper, St. George News

This February, he joined the Dixie Middle School track team as a way to build endurance. He’s since participated in several meets, including the Utah Youth Track and Field meet in St. George May 10-11 and the Utah Parks and Recreation state meet in Layton June 15.

At the latter event, he won the 100-meter dash and also helped his teammates to a victory in the 4×100 meter relay.

Caidan’s father Jerry Cooper said as the relay’s anchor leg, Caidan bobbled the baton exchange and almost came to a dead stop, but “he showed pure grit and determination and overtook his opponent to win the race.”

“It blew us away,” Jerry Cooper added. “I think he has a future in track.”

Although Miner agrees that Caidan Cooper’s swiftness is an asset, he said that it is his mental toughness that sets him apart from other fencers.

“Caidan’s ability to perform at a high level of athletics is due in part to his mental toughness and his ability to get in the zone and push or persevere through difficult situations,” Miner said. “He’s able to stay focused in high stress situations, which in fencing is essential to be a top-level athlete, and that transfers over to other sports as well.”

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Email: jrichards@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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