Marakov, Duke fencing shine at NCAA Mid-Atlantic/South Regional

<p>Duke at the Penn State Duals.</p>

Duke at the Penn State Duals.

For any athlete, the opportunity to vie for the ultimate crown, whether it be a medal, a trophy or an individual title, is the greatest dream of all. However, for the Duke fencers competing Saturday, something more was on the line: the chance to compete in an NCAA Championship right at home.

The Blue Devils traveled to Haverford, Pa., this weekend to face off against the best of the best in the NCAA Mid-Atlantic/South Regional. With individual bids to the championship on the line, Duke pulled out all the stops with 11 fencers putting in top-10 performances.

“I think we had some good performances across the board. I’m really excited,” said assistant coach Darius Wei. “We maybe fell just short of where we wanted to be, especially with hosting this year, but I think we’re going to be super strong coming into [the championship].”

With so many spectacular showings, the highlight on the day was the work of Allen Marakov. A sophomore epeeist who has had a fantastic season thus far, the Basking Ridge, N.J., native headlined both Blue Devil contingents as he took second overall in his event with 17 victories through pool play. After failing to qualify for the NCAA Championship last year with his 11th-place performance at regionals, Marakov will get a shot at revenge as he pursues an epee title.

“Second in our region is huge because our region is really, really difficult,” said Wei. “For Allen to have that performance, it’s got to give him a lot of confidence going into the NCAAs, and it really shows that the work he’s put in this year … has really paid off.”

The sophomore was not alone in his big-time showing, however, as several other members of the 11th-ranked men’s squad had banner days of their own. Sophomore Lukas Dannull walked away with a bronze in saber, with senior captain Terence Lee and junior Stephen Kim right on his heels in sixth and eighth, respectively. The one letdown on the men’s side was that of Finn Hossfeld, another senior captain whose ninth-place finish in the NCAA Championships last year in the foil cemented his status as one of the best fencers in the ACC. Notching a 13th-place performance, the Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., native could miss out on a championship berth this year.

The fifth-ranked women’s contingent came to play as well, with impressive matches abound. Senior saberist Anneke Zegers led the way with 14 pool play victories and a fourth-place finish overall. She was bolstered by fellow saberists Kunling Tong and Zsofia Walter, whose respective sixth- and ninth-place showings saw three of the four Duke qualifiers finish in the top 10 of the event. Junior Chloe Beittel had the best performance of the epeeists as she finished seventh while classmate and captain Christina Ferrari led the foilists with her eighth-place showing. 

With men’s and women’s saber as well as women’s epee advancing three fencers each to the final round of pool play, many of the Blue Devils’ performers could very well earn a trip to the NCAA Championship. As regular-season performances and placing at the regional meet factor into who will qualify, the Duke squad must now wait until later in the week to hear who will vie for a title. However, hosting the championships this year adds an extra layer of excitement for the team.

“We are so excited to show off Duke and show off Durham,” said Wei. “I think in terms of the group we’ve got, they’re really strong and they’re confident and they’re gonna come in and really put on a show for the home crowd.”

The Blue Devils will wait to hear who from their squad qualified this week before preparing for the NCAA Championship at Cameron Indoor Stadium, which will take place March 23-26. 

Mackenzie Sheehy profile
Mackenzie Sheehy | Blue Zone editor

Mackenzie Sheehy is a Trinity sophomore and Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.


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