Shealy turns in historic performance at NCAA Fencing championships

Maggie Shealy '23 during the final elimination round of NCAAs (Photo by Andy Mead)
Maggie Shealy '23 during the final elimination round of NCAAs (Photo by Andy Mead)

WALTHAM, Mass. – Brandeis University senior sabre fencer Maggie Shealy of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, continued her fantastic run at the NCAA National Collegiate Fencing Championships today at Duke University. She posted a 6-2 record in pool play to finish 19-4 overall and earn the number one overall seed into the final four elimination bracket.

After going 13-2 on Day One of the women's competition, Shealy entered Day Two as the number two seed. She remained there after the fourth of five rounds, earning wins over Julia Cieslar of St. John's, Zoe Kim of Harvard and Elizabeth Tartakovsky of Harvard. Two of those three wins were by 5-4 scores, as she improved to 7-1 in one-touch bouts.

In the fifth round, Shealy again posted a 3-1 mark, defeating Mira Vestel of Air Force, Kara Linder of Notre Dame and Atara Greenbaum of Notre Dame, the defending champion. Shealy was 1-1 in 5-4 matches in the final round, finishing 8-2 in matches decided by that score. While Shealy was winning three of her last four, Princeton's Chloe Fox-Gitomer went 0-4 in the final round against fencer from Penn and Columbia, allowing Shealy to take over the top spot, the best finish ever by a Brandeis fencer in NCAA pool play.

In the semifinals of the elimination bracket, Shealy jumped out to a 7-3 lead on Tartakovsky, but the Harvard fencer closed on a 12-1 run to earn a place finals. Shealy will take home the bronze medal, along with Fox-Gitomer.

Shealy becomes just the fourth Brandeis fencer to earn a top-four finish at the NCAA Championships, joining eventual Olympian Tim Morehouse '00 (4th, sabre, 2000); Kristen Foellmer '96 (3rd, foil, 1994); and Mike Mayer '94 (3th, sabre, 1993).

With the 19 points scored by Shealy in the team standings, she tied for sixth among all NCAA women's sabre squads. With her men's counterparts Tony Escueta and Lev BenAvram adding 21 points, Brandeis finished with 40 total, tops among Division III programs -16 points ahead of 17th-place NYU – and third among New England schools (Harvard, 4th, 134; Yale, 10th, 59). 14th place is the highest the Judges have finished since coming in 13th in 2000.

"I had an absolute blast," Shealy said after the tournament. "I feel very privileged to be able to work with my coaches [sabre coach Matt Zich, team head coach Elif Soyer Sachs, and strength and conditioning coach Kaitlin Carson] who have trained, programmed, and led our trio to NCAAs. They are an amazing coaching staff, that's for sure. It was very exciting to show the culmination of our hard work.

"It was an honor competing for my team, and on my home turf, no less!" said the Chapel Hill, N.C. native.

In the men's competition, Escueta, who finished 22nd as a first-year with six wins, increased his total record to 11-10 as a sophomore. This earned him third-team All-America honors, after earning Division III All-America honors last year. Ben Avram was not far behind, finishing with a 10-11 record in 16th place.

"It was truly an exhilarating four days," said coach Sachs. " I was lucky to be able to support three wonderful athletes and my outstanding saber coach and colleague Matt Zich. I can't say that the day exceeded my expectations because I have seen first-hand what these people can do when they set their minds and bodies to their goals."