Roar, Lion, Roar

Fencing Wins 15th National Title

Jake Hoyle ’16 successfully defended his national epee title and led Columbia’s fencing team to its second consecutive NCAA championship at Waltham, Mass., March 24–27. It was the 15th NCAA Division I crown in program history and the fourth since the championship changed to the current format in 1990, combining the men’s and women’s competitions.

Columbia finished with 174 points, 7 ahead of second-place Ohio State, with Princeton third at 161. The title capped another outstanding season for the Lions, who finished in a three-way tie for both the men’s and women’s Ivy League titles.

Columbia fencers celebrate their NCAA title.

Columbia fencers celebrate their NCAA title.

Mike Broglio / Sportspix

“Our goal every year is to be the best fencers we can be, the best teammates we can be and the best individuals we can be,” said coach Michael Aufrichtig. “In doing this, we have built a championship program and with that comes titles, both conference and national. Everyone is so proud of everything we have accomplished this season.”

Hoyle defeated Marc-Antoine Blais Belanger of Ohio State 15–9 in the championship bout of the men’s epee competition after edging another Buckeye fencer, Lewis Weiss, 15–14 in the semifinals. “I just pushed myself to win as many bouts for the team as I could,” Hoyle said. “It was my last college bout so I just wanted to have fun and fence my best.”

“What Jake has accomplished in his career is a feat that not many others have done,” Aufrichtig said. “He came into Columbia with hopes of being an All-American and he ends up graduating with back-to-back national titles as an individual and as a Lion. I am so happy and proud of him.”

Hoyle was one of four Lions to earn First Team All-America honors, along with Jackie Dubrovich ’16, who finished second in women’s foil; Mason Speta ’17, who tied for third in women’s epee; and Adam Mathieu ’16, who tied for third in men’s foil. Second Team honors went to Sara Taffel BC’17 in women’s foil, Geoffrey Loss ’16 in men’s sabre and Harry Bergman SEAS’16 in men’s foil, while Honorable Mention went to Lena Johnson BC’18 in women’s sabre, Calvin Liang ’19 in men’s sabre and Porter Hesslegrave ’18 in men’s epee.

The Lions become only the second team since 2000 to earn back-to-back national titles, after Penn State in 2009 and 2010. “Columbia always has a target on its back,” Aufrichtig noted, “and this year the target was bigger as the defending national champions.”

Two weeks later, at the USA National Championships in Richmond, Va., Margaret Lu ’17 won a gold medal in women’s foil with a 13–12 decision over her teammate Dubrovich, who earned a silver medal. Meanwhile, on the men’s side, former Columbia fencer Jeff Spear ’10, the 2008 NCAA champion, won the men’s sabre competition.