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Fencing Shines At IFA Championships

Purcell Becomes MIT’s First Female New England Individual Champion

By Evan Efstathiou
TEAM CAPTAIN

Facing the best teams in the nation, MIT travelled last weekend to Yale to fence in the Intercollegiate Fencing Association (IFA) Championship. The Engineers placed a respectable eight out of fourteen teams, finishing ahead of their local rivals Harvard, Boston College, Brandeis, and Brown.

The highlight of the weekend came from 2000 New England Champion, Caroline Purcell ’02. Purcell went a strong 12-1 on the A-strip, with her only loss being to Marisa Mustilli of St. John’s. Caprice Gray ’00 (7-6, B-strip) and Jen McKeehan ’01 (8-4, C-strip) both had fierce performances to boost the squad to third place overall.

In the finals, Purcell got her chance to avenge her only loss in the individual competition. After struggling a little in the first round of pools, Purcell caught fire, taking Mustilli 5-4 in the second pool and 5-4 in the barrage for first place. Purcell is the first IFA champion in any weapon from MIT since 1984, and the first woman from MIT to win IFAs since women began competing in the championships in 1996. Purcell was one of three female athletes nominated for the prestigious Cointe Award, which is given for demonstrating superior skill and sportsmanship at the IFAs.

The men’s sabre squad started off the day by learning that Captain and A-strip Evan Efstathiou ’00 had not fully recovered from injuries sustained during his performance at New England Championships, and would not be able to fence. MIT sabre was called upon to step up to fill his shoes, and proved their depth and heart by being capable to the task.

Newly-appointed A-strip fencer Phil Miller ’01 finished a respectable 6-6, including victories over three NCAA National candidates. B-strip Rafael Bras ’02 claimed four victories, and the pleasant surprise of the day was Richard Burstein ’02 going a strong 9-3, with wins over two of the three C-strips who finished ahead of him.

Other weapons had some success on the strips as well. In only his first year of experience, freshman Cheng Pei ’03 showed great promise of things to come by taking six wins on the epee B-strip. A-strip epeeist Neal Devaraj ’02 counted amongst his five wins a victory over the Penn A-strip, who finished 5th nationally last year. Danielle Morse ’02 also claimed six from the women’s foil C-strip.

“I like the intensity that I saw today,” commented coach Jarek Koniusz.

This weekend the Engineers travel to Vassar College to compete for a spot at the NCAA Nationals at Stanford next weekend.