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A Visual History of Which Colleges Have Dominated Men’s & Women’s Foil at the NCAA Fencing Championships 2003-2016

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Ivy League Fencing

The NCAA National Collegiate Fencing Championships are held every March and include individual events in each of the six weapons; men’s epee, men’s foil, men’s saber, women’s epee, women’s foil and women’s saber. A field of 24 fencers competes in each event, giving a total of 144 competitors for the tournament.

Fencers compete in a round-robin format of five-touch bouts. After the round-robin, the top four finishers in each weapon fence in semifinal 15-touch bouts, with the winners fencing to determine first and second places. The non-advancing fencers are awarded a tie for third place. A college’s ranking in the championships is based on points earned by each fencer. The championships are a marquee event in the collegiate fencing calendar and are eagerly followed by fencers, parents, officials and alumni. Further details on the championships can be found here.

In our visualization, we have drawn a timeline showing rolling four-year Top 8 results for the dominant colleges in men’s and women’s foil at the NCAA Fencing Championships from 2003 through 2016 using data from the NCAA’s database. We thought it worthwhile to provide a longitudinal analysis of the comparative performance of the leading colleges in men’s and women’s foil, by tracing the rise and fall of each college’s Top 8 results over time. The undulating ribbons in the accompanying graphs highlight the relative performance of the major foil teams, offering deeper insight into how the NCAA Fencing Championships have changed as they have grown over the past couple of decades.

To overcome the year-by-year gyrations of the Top 8 finishers and provide a smoother short to medium term trend, we have used a rolling four-year Top 8 count of results in the post. The data for 2016, for example, includes the Top 8 results for 2016 and the preceding four years, 2012-2015; 8 results x 4 years = 32 data points. The data for 2015, includes the Top 8 results for 2015 and the preceding four years, 2011-2014, etc. In this way, short-to-medium term trends are more easily observed. Scroll over the graphs below to highlight the comparative data for each college. Data for all the colleges finishing in the top 8 are provided in the graphs.

For an excellent visualization of the countries that have dominated fencing at the Summer Olympic Games since 1896, check out the article at the New York Times. (Scroll down over half the page).

Men’s Foil

Since 2000, Penn State and Notre Dame have dominated men’s foil at the NCAA Fencing Championships with 23 and 22 Top 8 results, respectively. They are joined by Ohio State, Columbia, UPenn, and Standford with 15, 13, 12 and 12 Top 8 finishers, respectively, to round out the Top 5 NCAA foil colleges (Pennsylvania and Standford are tied with 12 Top 8 results). 

Over the past five years or so, UPenn, St Johns, and Yale have given up ground to Harvard and Princeton as illustrated by their narrowing bands in the graph. Penn State, Harvard, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Stanford now make up the Top 5 colleges when it comes to men’s foil at the NCAA Fencing Championships. The group accounted for 30 or 75% of the Top 8 results between 2012 and 2016. Nobuo Bravo (Penn State), Alexander Massialas (Stanford) and Zain Shaito (Ohio State), each accounted for three Top 8 finishers over the period. Scroll over the graph to highlight details.

 

Since 2000, six fencers have finished in the Top 8 on four separate occasions, either over a four or five-year period; Ozren Debic (Notre Dame 2000-2003), Nonpatat Panchan (Penn State 2001-2005), Andras Horanyi (Ohio State 2006-2009), Miles Chamley-Watson (Penn State 2009-2013), Gerek Meinhardt (Notre Dame 2009-2014), and David Willette (Penn State 2010-2014). Three were crowned NCAA Champions on two occasions, Nonpatat Panchan in 2002 and 2003, Andras Horanyi in 2007 and 2008 and Gerek Meinhardt in 2010 and 2014.

Other notable foil fencers at the NCAA championships include Boaz Ellis, Ohio State, who was crowned NCAA Champion in 2004, 2005 and 2006 and Alexander Massialas, Stanford, who was crowned NCAA Champion in 2013 and 2015. 

Women’s Foil

Notre Dame and Ohio State sit atop the leaderboard in women’s foil at the NCAA Fencing Championships. With 24 and 21 Top 8 results respectively since 2000, Notre Dame and Ohio State are joined by Penn State, St. Johns and Columbia to make the Top 5 women’s foil teams as illustrated in the accompanying graph below.  

Over the past five years or so, Northwestern and Princeton have given up ground to Columbia and Ohio State, which is illustrated by their narrowing bands in the graph. The Top 5 accounted for 31 or 77% of the Top 8 results between 2012 and 2016. Jackie Dubrovich (Columbia) and Madison Zeiss (Notre Dame) each accounted for four Top 8 finishers over the period. Scroll over the graph to highlight details.

 

Since 2000, nine fencers have finished in the Top 8 on four separate occasions, either over a four or five-year period; Iris Zimmermann (Stanford 2001-2005), Andrea Ament (Notre Dame 2002-2005), Hanna Thompson (Ohio State 2002-2005), Alicja Kryczato (Notre Dame 2002-2005), Jacqueline Leahy (Princeton 2003-2006), Samantha Nemecek (Northwestern 2006-2009), Doris Willette (Penn State 2007-2011), Madison Zeiss (Notre Dame 2012-2015) and Jackie Dubrovich (Columbia 2013-2016). Alicja Kryczato was crowned NCAA Champion on three occasions, in 2002, 2003 and 2004; Doris Willette was crowned twice, in 2007 and 2009 and Iris Zimmermann was crowned in 2001.

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