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Duke fencing places 3rd at NCAA Championships

The third-place finish was the best for Duke at the NCAA Championships in program history.
The third-place finish was the best for Duke at the NCAA Championships in program history.

A month ago, Duke fencing made history at the ACC Championships. This past weekend, the Blue Devils did the same on a national level.

Duke placed third at the co-ed NCAA Championships Thursday through Sunday, the best finish in program history. Notre Dame secured the title with 201 points, followed by the host Penn State with 182 points and the Blue Devils with 130.

Duke steadily increased its placement throughout the weekend, holding sixth place following Thursday's events before moving into fifth Friday, fourth Saturday and eventually third by the end of competition Sunday. This marks the 10th top-10 finish for the Blue Devils over the last 11 full seasons.

"We hope it shows that we are serious," head coach Alex Beguinet wrote in an email to The Chronicle regarding what the top-three finish means for the program. "We feel we have a very good program that balances serious academics with our work in fencing.  I hope it helps all of our fencers deeply realize that by applying themselves and focusing on the task in front of them, they can achieve the results we’ve always believed they could."

Nine out of the 10 Blue Devils who qualified for and competed at the NCAA Championships earned All-America status by placing in the top-12 of their respective 24-person field. Sophomore Finn Hossfeld led the way in a tie for third at men's foil, with freshmen Christina Ferrari and Stephen Kim also earning top-five finishes at women's foil and men's saber, respectively.

Freshman Lulu Tang placed 10th in women's foil, junior Alex Gorman and sophomore Anneke Zegers placed sixth and 10th in women's saber, freshman Sarah Lurye placed 12th in women's epee, senior Brycen Rushing placed 12th in men's foil, senior Ping Ping Kitsiriboon placed 18th in men's saber and sophomore Jason Post placed sixth in men's epee to round out Duke's individual performances.

"Having nine out of 10 being All-American is another first for us but, with this group, we were not very surprised that they did it," Beguinet wrote.

There's no doubt this year's NCAA Championships were different from years past, with COVID-19 impacting nearly every facet of the event, including which teams were able to compete. No Ivy League teams competed at the event over the weekend, after the conference cancelled its winter sports seasons in November due to COVID-19 precautions. 

"It is undeniable that COVID-19 restrictions impacted who could have a season and get to the championships," Beguinet wrote in response to how this season's NCAA Championships were different from years past. "Not having the Ivy League present made it possible for other schools to participate in the championship. Still, it was clearly evident that there was strong competition this past weekend. It speaks to the wide level of good collegiate fencers across the country."

Now the Blue Devils will look to build off this historic campaign as they enter the offseason, with the goal of not only repeating their top-three finish, but improving upon it.

"We do have fencers participating in some of the upcoming North American Cup events over the next few months, so we will be back to postseason practice hours to help them prepare for those events," Beguinet wrote. "I think we have a good momentum and will continue with some of the tweaks we made to our program during this COVID year that helped us focus. Next year we will be looking to do as well or even better."

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