Foil fencer Philippe Bennett and sabre man Gordon Rutledge, kingpins on Harvard's Ivy co-champion fencing team this year, saved their finest performances for the final competition of the season, capturing All-America honors last week at the NCAA Championships at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.
Bennett, who was seeded 11th in foil after the preliminary round of competition, finished fifth overall, and Rutledge, seeded ninth going into the finals, captured sixth. The top six individuals in each weapon qualify for the All-American fencing squad.
Bennett and Rutledge followed identical paths to All-American standing. In the opening round both Harvard performers captured 7 out of 10 bouts, and in the two-day finals they ran up 16-7 bouting marks to finish at 23-10.
On the basis of Bennett and Rutledge's strong showing, Harvard finished 11th in team standings in a field of 54, despite the fact that Crimson epee representative Eugene White failed to qualify for the finals at all.
"It went 66 per cent as I expected," Crimson coach Edo Marion said yesterday. "Gordon and Philippe made the All-American team and we placed 11th. If Eugene had made the finals and won only five bouts we would have finished in the top three."
Even with White's failure to advance past the preliminaries, the Crimson's overall showing was impressive. Harvard was one of just three teams in the NCAAs to have more than one All-American performer.
Predictably, NCAA powerhouse NYU had All-Americans in all three weapons, as the Violets captured the NCAA title. The only other team beside Harvard to have more than one All-American was Wayne State, which finished second.
Marion said that Bennett and Rutledge might have finished even higher had the two Harvard fencers not suffered from lapses in concentration. "Both Gordon and Philippe lost three bouts that they should never have lost," Marion said.
While Rutledge was not in contention for the sabre title himself, he had a direct hand in determining the winner, turning back NYU's Peter Westbrook, 5-2, to hand the Violet star his first loss in the NCAAs in two years and knock him into a tie with Wayne State's Steve Danosi for first in sabre. Danosi bested Westbrook in the fence-off for the title.
In the final team standings, Penn finished a surprising third behind NYU and Wayne State. The Quakers' performance in the NCAAs was a shock to most observers, since Penn had not done well in either the Easterns or the Ivy title race. "They are not great fencers," Marion said, "but they surprised everyone."
In individual competition, NYU's Risto, Hurme captured the epee title, Steve Benko won in foil, and Wayne State's Danosi finished first in sabre.