POUGHKEEPSIE, NY – For the second time in three years, sabre fencer Robin Shin will represent the MIT Fencing team at the NCAA National Championships. Shin qualified for the National Championships after placing 5th in the NCAA Regional finals held Sunday at Vassar College.
Navigating through 49 of the best fencers in the Northeast, Shin made the final pool of 12 and won 7 of her 11 round robin bouts to finish fifth overall. Along the way, Robin beat three fencers from Columbia University. There are 18 schools in the Northeast Region, the hardest fencing region in the country because it boasts most of the Ivy League Colleges, the toughest competitors in the fencing circuit, as well as powerhouse St. John's.
The accomplishment is significant for any Division III school to qualify against Division 1 programs, where fencers are brought in on scholarships and are often members of Olympic teams, as were several of the fencers Shin competed against at Vassar. Only the top 24 fencers in the country earn passage to Nationals in their discipline. Shin has been MIT's only entrant in the past three years.
"It's been amazing to have someone from D3 compete at the division 1 level in the strongest region in the country. Her qualification to the NCAAs is a very significant accomplishment, and it proves her impressive record through the entire year. She proved she can compete with the best people in the country," said fencing coach Jarek Koniusz.
Shin was able to stay composed and focus on her performance, according to her coach. "She is very light on her feet and is trying to outsmart the opponent, and has been doing it very well," said Koniusz, who noted that Robin made some adjustments to improve her attacks by the end of the day.
While the Regionals are mostly about individual achievement and qualifying, there is a team component to fencing and the support of her teammates was very important to Robin's success.
MIT had 16 fencers qualify for the Regional Competition, and many of them had outstanding showings. Fellow women's sabre fencers Molly Kozminsky placed 14th in the Regional Competition and narrowly missed out on an alternate slot to Nationals. Elena Tartarchenko took 16th place home in the sabre competition. Kirsten Hessler was 29th in women's epee and Jenna Caldwell's 24th place finish was the best result by an MIT women's foil fencer.
On the men's side, Maximilian Brand took 20th in the sabre competition while Benjamin Nield was 21st in men's foil. Epee fencers Joseph Rafidi (19th) and Jackson Crane (22nd) also had strong showings at Regionals.
"I am very pleased with the performance of our fencers overall," said Koniusz. "Robin's performance was very impressive and her qualification was due to the work of the entire team."
Shin will travel to the NCAA Nationals at Ohio State University. She will compete against the best fencers in the country on Saturday, March 26th, beginning at 9 PM and will continue round robin fencing on Sunday, March 27th, with the top four competing in head to head competition.