Swashbuckling National Champions
The Harvard men’s and women’s fencing teams combined to win the NCAA national championship, the first in program history, in Houston this March. The Crimson fencers (see “Wild on the Strip,” January-February, page 53) dethroned defending champion Penn Statewinner of nine of the 17 NCAA fencing titles award-ed to dateby winning six more bouts (165 to 159) during the four days of competition. After the women’s matches on the first two days, Harvard was in third place, 12 points behind Penn State and also trailing Ohio State. But the men’s team came on strong, time and again vanquishing Penn State fencers in individual bouts; they had already handed the Nittany Lions their only loss of the season in a previous dual meet. On the NCAAs’ final day, the Harvard men all showed up with crimson-colored hair. When David Jakus ’06 clinched the team title by winning his saber bout over a Penn State opponent, the squad mobbed him in a victory dance.
The NCAA title is only the fourth won by Harvard in any sport: the 2006 fencers join the 1989 men’s ice hockey, 1990 women’s lacrosse, and the 2003 women’s rowing teams as NCAA champions. The title is the 138th national championship in Harvard’s history and the first in fencing since the Crimson men won the 1934 epée championship. The victory in Houston completes a dream season for the Crimson fencers in which both the men’s and the women’s squads went undefeated in dual meets, won the Ivy League titles outright, and captured the Intercollegiate Fencing Association (IFA) championships. In addition, sophmore Benji Ungar won the NCAA individual championaship in epée. “I told the team I had only two choices now,” says head coach Peter Brand. “Retire, or try to stay at the same level next year.”