Harvard's Ivy champion foil and epee teams, expected to be among top contenders in this year's IFA Championships, failed to duplicate their successes in the regular season yesterday, finishing a disappointing fifth in foil and a mediocre seventh in epee.
The Crimson did not sent a single foil or epee fencer up to the finals, which will be held this afternoon. All-Ivy performers Eugene White (epee) and Phillipe Bennett (foil), both fencing in the tough first pool of their weapons, failed to make the cutoff for the finals. White, the individual Ivy champion in epee, had to struggle to break even yesterday and wound up in sixth place in his pool with a 6-6 bouting record.
Bennett, who seemed assured of a spot in the finals before dropping his final three bouts, tied for fourth in the first pool, taking 7 out of 12 bouts. In first pool competition the top three advance to the finals.
In the team standings, Harvard ended the first day of competition in seventh place with 37 total points. Defending champion NYU, spurred by a phenomenal performance in epee, outdistanced the 13-team field with a 52-point total. NYU won 31 out of 36 bouts in epee and sent all three of the Violet epee men into the finals.
The biggest surprise of the competition came from MIT, which captured the individual team title in foil. Paced by Swedish Olympic team member Johan Akerman, the Engineers ran up 26 wins to bring the foil title back to New England for the first time since 1931. Harvard was the last New England squad to capture the "Iron Man" trophy for the IFA foil title.
Harvard's don Valentine (foil) and Eric Read (epee), along with Bennett, were the most consistent Crimson performers, taking 7 out of 12 bouts each. Read finished in fifth place in the second pool competition and Valentine wound up seventh in pool three.
Crimson coach Edo Marion was chagrined by Harvard's disappointing performance in yesterday's action. "I thought from our showing in the Ivies that one team or the other would be in the top three," Marion said after the completion of the opening day's competition. "But in epee all Harvard's fencers choked up in the first three rounds where we lost eight out of nine bouts. We would have finished second behind NYU, if we hadn't had that letdown in the first three rounds."
White, who suffered through another frustrating day of IFA competition, said that the epee, team took too long to establish itself.
Today's competition will feature the sabre preliminaries in the morning, and the finals in all three weapons in the afternoon. The finals will commence at 1 p.m.