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Duke fences to 4th at NCAAs

Going into the final set of bouts on Day 1 of the NCAA Fencing Championships, sophomore Ibtihaj Muhammad knew she had to win at least two of her final three bouts to have a shot at earning All-American status.

The Junior Olympic champion, who was an All-American in her freshman season at Duke, had lost to several lower-ranked fencers and had a losing record. But Muhammad won her final three matches, finishing the first day of the two-day event at 7-7.

Muhammad finished the sabre competition in 11th place with a 12-11 record, becoming the first two-time All-American fencer at Duke.

Two other female fencers and a pair of male fencers also competed for Duke at the NCAA Championships March 17 to 20 in Houston, Texas. The 10th-ranked women’s team and unranked men’s team competed together and scored a total of 48 points, 19 of which came from Muhammad. The Blue Devils finished in 13th place overall.

“Being an All-American last year I was under a lot of pressure,” she said. “I put a lot stress on myself.”

Muhammad said she let the stress affect her negatively before winning the final three bouts of Day 1. The following day, Muhammad beat several fencers who ultimately finished ahead of her in the event to lock up 11th place.

In his third appearance at nationals, Nathan Bragg finished 11th in the epee, earning his first All-American honors in his senior season. Freshman Jackson McClam finished 21st in foil.

Anne Kercsmar fenced to 16th place in the women’s epee, winning 10-of-23 bouts. Like Muhammad, Kercsmar fenced better the second day of the competition.

“Anne fenced amazingly well the second day of competition,” Muhammad said. “That is how she usually fences. Both Anne and I put amazing amounts of pressure on ourselves the first day.”

Also for Duke, Allison Schafer finished 17th in the sabre with a 7-16 record.

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