The Yale fencing teams fought extensively over break, securing high scores at both the NCAA Northeast Regional on March 10 as well as the NCAA Championship this past weekend. With their postseasons now concluded, both the men’s and women’s teams have officially closed out their 2018–19 campaigns.

The two-week spring recess began with the Bulldogs traveling to Poughkeepsie, N.Y., for the Northeast Regional, which also welcomed top-five squads teams such as Columbia and Harvard. That same caliber of competition, along with powerhouse schools like No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 7/No. 10 St. John’s, also fenced against the Elis at Nationals in Cleveland. Several Elis scored well enough at the regional to fight at the NCAA championships two weeks later, which ultimately ended in a seventh-place finish for both the men’s and women’s teams.

“This season has been by far the most successful of my time on the team and in recent memory,” men’s captain Isaac Shelanski ’20 said. “It is a sign of how strong we have become that we view our best finish in seventeen years as a bit of a disappointment, and I am confident that we will continue to rise as a team.”

Shelanski, an epeeist, placed in the upper-echelon of scorers at both the NCAA Regional and the NCAA Championship. The fencing regional Yale competed in consisted of three pools. After each pool, cuts were made until the final round, in which the top third of fencers in each weapon category battled it out. Shelanski finished eighth in the final pool for epee, preceded by Safi Haider ’22 and Jonathan Xu ’19, who came in sixth and seventh, respectively. Saberist Walter Musgrave ’19 also ended the day in third place, while all three Bulldog foilists ended the regional in the final pool as well.

Five female Bulldogs advanced to the final pool with epeeist Michelle Nam ’20 notching the highest finish with a fourth-place mark in her event. The foil squad was also successful, with captain Sarah Pak ’19 taking fifth and Anna Zhou ’20 taking eighth. While saberist Lauren Kim ’21 starred as the lone Yale representative in her event, she managed to make it to the final pool to finish tenth overall.

“We had an incredible year,” Kim said. “Despite going through some rough patches, we were still able to prove that Yale fencing is only getting stronger each year.”

The lone Yale saberist at Nationals, Kim earned a 23rd-place finish at the event. Shirley Wang ’22 placed 11th in epee, followed by Nam, who ended the day in 16th. The foilists also had a productive showing with Zhou earning 13th overall and Pak battling to a 17th-place finish.

In the men’s division at the NCAA Championship, Musgrave finished 14th for saber, while foilists Earnest Chen ’22 and Cameron Allen ’21 finished 16th and 19th, respectively. Shelanski and Haider also competed admirably, both finishing among the top 25 epeeists on the individual leaderboard. The seventh-place finish by Yale marked a two-spot improvement from their ninth-place performance at Nationals in 2018.

“The most exciting part is that we realized that we are one of the best teams in the country,” Haider said. “If we won some of the close matches that we lost, we would be in the running for an NCAA Championship.”

While most varsity teams at Yale elect senior captains, Shelanski was elected by his teammates to lead men’s fencing in 2018 heading into his junior campaign. He said he is grateful for the experience and is looking forward to future seasons and additional successes with the Bulldogs.

“Over the three years I have been on the team, I have witnessed our improvement every year,” Shelanski said. “To be able to contribute to that upward trajectory as a captain this year was really special for me.”

Yale men’s fencing is currently ranked No. 8 in the country according to the Coaches Poll, while the women’s team is ranked No. 9.

Valerie Pavilonis |