The Harvard fencing team finished sixth at the NCAA Championships for the second year in a row, capping a successful season for the squad. The year-end tournament was held this past weekend in Columbus, Ohio. Senior Teddy Sherrill was among four All-Americans for the Crimson and led the team with a fifth-place finish in epee.
Entering the season without some key fencers, the Crimson nevertheless relied on veteran leaders and some youthful infusion to tie for the second-best finish in school history. Mathematically, the chances of recapturing the title, which Harvard won in 2006, were quite slim. With only 10 qualifiers after regional competition, it would have been nearly impossible to finish above the few teams with 12 fencers, the maximum number allotted per team. That, however, did not prevent some strong individual performances.
Sherrill, coming off his first All-American performance with a 10th-place finish last year, found himself in 13th place at the end of the first day. The next day, he came back strong and posted seven victories while increasing his indicator rating from +1 to +18.
“I was happy with how I fenced, especially the second day,” Sherrill said. “I took a long nap on the second night so I felt better when I was fencing.”
The senior just missed out on qualifying for the final four and a chance at the national title.
“It was a really good day for him fencing-wise,” Harvard coach Peter Brand said. “It was one of those situations where if he made the final four, he would have had a good shot at winning because he already beat three of the four semifinalists.”
Senior Alexa Weingarden, competing in women’s saber, had the second-best finish for the Crimson after placing eighth overall.
“The women’s saber field has top fencers in the national and international levels,” Brand said. “Alexa was dogged about it and worked extremely hard all four years. There’s a very small difference between the eighth place spot and the top at the end of the day, so I was pleased with her finish.”
Also finishing with All-American status for Harvard, given to the top 12 finishers at the NCAA championships, were senior Steve Ahn and freshman Alexandra Sneider at men’s and women’s saber. Both placed 12th in a field of 24 fencers. Ahn finished with 12 total victories, while Sneider claimed 10 victories.
For the Harvard women especially, the performance marked the end of an unexpectedly successful season.
Junior co-captain Maria Larsson just missed out on her third career All-American placement with a 13th-place finish in women’s epee.
“We went into the season with not as much momentum and energy,” Larsson said. “But as we started to travel and compete, the team grew stronger and closer and everyone managed to perform above expectations.”
The other qualifiers on the women’s side were sophomore Anna Podolsky, who finished 15th, and Arielle Pensler, who finished 18th, both in foil.
For the men, junior co-captain Kai Itameri-Kinter finished 19th and sophomore Long Ouyang finished 23rd, both in foil. Sophomore Billy Stallings rounded out the team and placed 16th in epee.
Overall, Harvard finished sixth in a field of 27 schools represented, with 101 total victories. This year, Ohio State won the national title with 12 fencers and 185 total victories.
For Harvard, the competition marks both the end of a season and also the beginning of a quest for another national championship.
“I’m very happy as long as we continue to be competitive, and this year was no exception,” Brand said. “Next year we have some very strong individuals returning and I anticipate we will do better individually and as a team. Of course our ultimate goal is recapturing the title.”
—Staff writer Lucas A. Paul can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.