Duke fencing closes season 10th at NCAA Championships as Marakov takes home bronze

The Blue Devils put a stamp on a successful season with their 10th-place finish at the NCAA Championships.
The Blue Devils put a stamp on a successful season with their 10th-place finish at the NCAA Championships.

It’s the semifinals of men’s epee, played on a single strip in the center of French Field House — figuratively and literally the biggest stage in collegiate fencing. Junior Allen Marakov launches an inspired comeback mid-bout to score three points in a row against Notre Dame’s Jonathan Hamilton-Meikle. Between each point, Marakov’s teammates yell “come on Allen!” from the stands. 

There is no better representation of the team’s season than this; down to their last bout, the Blue Devils displayed the dedication and teamwork that brought them to the NCAA Championships in the first place and helped them finish 10th.

“Overall, I would say it was a successful competition,” said head coach Omar Elgeziry. “I'm happy that we sustained and I'm happy with the individual performances.”

Prior to the semifinal, Marakov had already fallen once to the Fighting Irish 5-4 in pool play. It was clear from the start of the rematch that the New Jersey native had something to prove. The two epeeists were neck-and-neck at first, before the momentum of the match shifted in Hamilton-Meikle’s favor. Down 7-5, Marakov began to play more aggressively, pushing his opponent backwards with quick jabs and lunges. It was when the Blue Devil finally led 8-7 that the match seemed to run away from him, as Hamilton-Meikle took the next three points even faster than Marakov did and succeeded in defending his 15-12 lead.

Nonetheless, Marakov can be proud of his performance this weekend, taking home a bronze medal and All-America accolades. Throughout two days of play, the Blue Devil collected a total of 17 wins in the preliminary round-robin portion of the event. This led him to become the first Duke men’s epeeist to medal at the national event since 2014.

“Those two days were very stressful and brutal,” Elgeziry said. “But he ignored all the outsides and just focused on the strip and he really delivered and stepped up his game this weekend.”

Also representing the men’s team for the Blue Devils was freshman Samir Travers. Despite this weekend being his first time competing at the national collegiate level, Travers went on to collect six wins in pool play and come 22nd overall in saber.

“Samir struggled to close bouts but … I believe that most of his matches he lost by one touch, by four,” Elgeziry said. “You could have turned those losses to wins but just the lack of experience didn't help him in this area.”

On the women’s side, co-captain Christina Ferrari showcased the consistency that made her a multiple time ACC medalist in foil. The New York native collected a total of 13 wins in pool play, allowing her to finish eighth and capture her third All-America honor. In doing so, Ferrari became the first women’s foilist from Duke to be awarded the honor at least three times. This weekend also marked the end of the senior’s illustrious collegiate career. In her time at Duke, Ferrari was not only a leader on the strip but a leader in the locker room.

“Sustaining excellence is not an easy thing to do,” Elgeziry said. “It's extremely hard and, in my eyes, I think she managed to do this. Maybe she didn't win the whole thing, but sustaining is very, very impressive in that kind of competition at that kind of level. I'm very proud of her as well and the work she's done throughout the years, throughout the season for herself and for her teammates and for the team.”

Freshman Charlotte Koenig finished right behind Ferrari, taking home ninth place in her first NCAA Championship. Just two weeks ago, the New York native championed women’s foil at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic/South Regional in large part because of her ability to win when it mattered most. Despite being new to the scene, Koenig has already established herself as one of the top foilists in the country, and Duke fans can look forward to watching her dominate the discipline for years to come.

“She [Koenig] can easily put her name on the All-American and stand on the podium in the next three years,” Elgeziry said. “Her results speak volumes for herself.”

The other representatives on the women’s side also fared well this weekend, with Kunling Tong placing 13th in saber with 12 wins, Natalie Olsen placing 24th in saber with four wins, and Rachel Kowalsky placing 22nd in epee with eight wins.

This has been a season of firsts for the team with Elgeziry following former head coach Alex Beguinet’s reign of the program for nearly 40 years. Over the course of Elgeziry’s first season at the helm, he qualified seven fencers to the NCAA Championship and went undefeated on the women’s side in all regular-season invitationals.

“We're a competitive team and coming after Alex Beguinet was an extraordinary task for me and showing up and being able to hold the fort and manage to build on what he did, I feel happy,” Elgeziry said. “I feel proud that I sustained the level of the team. Overall, I can't complain but there's always room to improve and if we didn't win the whole thing, we still have some work to do.

The Blue Devils’ 2024-25 season will begin again in November of this year.


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