COLUMBIA — Although she is just 17, Corey Kilgallon isn't afraid to go up against the big guys.
Kilgallon, who is from Millstadt, Illinois, fenced in the Sabre Division at the Show-Me State Games on Saturday. As a rising high school senior, she was one of the youngest competitors in the division and was also the only female to compete.
Kilgallon said it was fun to fence and win against older people, especially those of the opposite gender.
"I think it's really funny because when I was a freshman I competed in this tournament with all these college guys," Kilgallon said. "I was only three weeks in to fencing, and I was beating these college guys, and they were cussing and stuff because a little Girl Scout beat them."
Kilgallon won third place in the overall competition Saturday and first place in the women's division.
She said that most smaller tournaments that she fences in have a mix of ages and genders. It's the bigger, national tournaments — such as the Junior Olympics, which Kilgallon fenced in — that sort competitors by their age and gender.
"I'm actually used to it because I'm rarely with people of my own age. It's usually older people," Kilgallon said.
She started fencing three years ago with The Fencers of the Corn, a nonprofit recreational fencing club and nationally competitive Olympic fencing team.
"I've always wanted to fence," Kilgallon said. "I watched 'The Parent Trap' when I was little, and there is a fencing scene in it, and ever since I watched it, ... I thought fencing looked cool."
Pearce Wilson, 54, is the coach of The Fencers of the Corn and has worked with Kilgallon since she joined the club.
"Pearce is a father figure to me in all honesty," Kilgallon said. "He tries to get very close with the people he works with, and he just wants us to be happy."
When Wilson found out later that Kilgallon considered him a father figure, he joked and said, "I might cry a little bit, that's very nice."
Because fewer than 10 people competed in the Sabre Division on Saturday, Wilson decided to fence.
"I actually fenced for Mizzou back in the late '70s and early '80s," Wilson said. "I quit fencing when I graduated from Mizzou and didn't fence again for 27 years. I was not planning on coming back, but I had my stuff in the back of the closet for all those years."
Wilson was recently hired to be the coach for McKendree University's new fencing program. Practices will be starting in August at the Lebanon, Illinois, college.
He said he is recruiting Kilgallon to come to McKendree to fence.
Kilgallon said she isn't sure where she will go to college, but she said she would like to stay close to home and go to a small community college. She said she wants to go into counseling psychology.
If she ends up getting a scholarship to fence or decides to earn a degree in counseling pyschology, fencing will always be a part of her life.
"I wouldn't just want to do fencing for fun," Kilgallon said. "It's the competition that I truly love."
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