Eleven Fencers Advance to Nationals
On a bus heading back to Harvard from NCAA Northeast Regionals in Queens, N.Y. on Sunday night, Crimson coach Peter Brand read the names of the 11 Harvard fencers who qualified for the NCAA Championships to be held later this month.
St. John’s University hosted the regional tournament, which featured fencers from 18 different schools. Three of the universities were Top 10 varsity programs, including Harvard, St. John’s, and Columbia.
The Crimson had five medalists at the end of the tournament, most notably sophomore foilist Brian Kaneshige, who snagged the gold medal in his weapon group.
“[Kaneshige] definitely deserved it,” sophomore Emma Vaggo said. “He’s a great fencer, and he’s been working really hard this year and doing really well traveling to world cups…. He did a great job and fenced really well.”
Kaneshige, heading into his final round with a tight score of 6-6 (+11), clinched the title after going 10-1 (+32). The sophomore edged out Eli Schenkel of St. John’s, who received the silver medal.
Freshman foilist Michael Woo medaled as well, registering a 19-4 (+48) finish to claim the bronze medal and join his teammate on the podium.
“It feels great,” Wood said. “I didn’t really have super-high expectations. I’m just there to fence and do my best.”
The freshman entered his final bouts 11-1, higher than that of Kaneshige when he headed into his closing bouts of the day.
“It’s always really fun and really positive looking forward,” Vaggo said. “We’ve got three freshmen who qualified for NCAAs, which is really strong of them. You’re always nervous during regionals because you’re not used to fencing all day, but they all fenced really well and were strong physically and mentally, and we’re all excited to have them on our team.”
Junior Lucas Lin also represented Harvard in the foil event, ranking 14th at the end of the day.
Women’s foil also claimed a medal, with junior Alexandra Kiefer receiving the bronze. The podium finish marked Kiefer’s second career medal in the NCAA Regional tournament. Senior foilist Katherine Chou finished 14th.
Men’s epée fencers failed to clinch a medal, but sophomore Peregrine Badger grabbed a spot in the top 10 and a nod to the NCAA Championships tournament.
Vaggo clinched the silver in the women’s epée event, her second career regional medal.
“It was such a long day,” Vaggo said. “To be honest, I think we are all just really happy to be done, but I pushed a little bit more to win the last bout to make sure I would end up going to NCAAs.”
Freshman Nina van Loon and senior Felicia Sun finished seventh and ninth, respectively.