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April 2023 NAC, Day 2: Columbia’s Nora Burke Follows NCAA Title With National Championship

04/22/2023, 10:45pm CDT
By Bryan Wendell

On Saturday at the 2023 Division I National Championships & April North American Cup in St. Louis, Burke won the Women’s Saber title, her first.

ST. LOUIS, MO. — Among Nora Burke’s challenges during a tough day was a round of 16 bout against three-time Olympian Dagmara Wozniak OLY, whom Burke has called “the best role model a young girl could ask for.”

Burke says their bout was, first and foremost, “really, really fun.”

“I always enjoyed practicing with Daga, so it was really fun to see her competing and then fence against her,” Burke says. “She's meant so much to me. When I started fencing when I was, like, 9 or 10, she had been to Beijing [as an Olympic alternate]. I have nothing but like admiration for her. And I obviously was a little bit scared going into a really tough opponent, but at the end of the day, I just tried to have fun.”

And she showed it on Saturday at the 2023 Division I National Championships & April North American Cup in St. Louis where Burke won the 2023 Division I Women’s Saber national championship, her first.

Burke, also the 2023 NCAA Women’s Saber individual champion at Columbia University, says her recent string of successes hasn’t been a solo endeavor.

“My coach, Yury Gelman — I've been working with him since I was 14,” she says. “So, you know, every success that I've had, I definitely owe it to him and Manhattan Fencing Center and all the coaches there. I obviously want to thank my Columbia family — all the coaches and my teammates there. These past two years, I’ve kind of put NAC fencing on the back burner and focused on [college], and they've really helped me find joy in fencing again. I'm really here because of them.”

In Division I Women’s Epee, it was an all-Princeton final with 2017 graduate Kat Holmes OLY facing off against first-year student Hadley Husisian.

Husisian took the victory against her frequent practice partner and is now a two-time national champion (2021 and 2023).

“Fencing Kat — we fence several times a week. It'll be the two of us coming in on Saturdays at Princeton to fence each other,” she says. “So we know each other very well; we're very close. It really felt like just another Saturday practice to have the two of us up there. We were joking about that on the strip. It was really special to have the two of us out there.”

Husisian, fresh off her Junior World Championship win in Bulgaria, says the atmosphere at a NAC is quite different from what she experiences at an international tournament.

“I think it’s interesting at NACs, especially the more years I fence, to know every single person that I'm fencing and have them be close friends, even,” she says. “Instead of easing the tension, I think it adds a little bit more in some cases, because it's a lot more emotion. So I think you can sort of blank out and just see your person as totally your opponent when it's international. But here, it's a little more personal. There's emotions running a little higher. So it's nice for the social aspect, but it's definitely an additional factor.”

In Division I Men’s Foil, Nick Itkin OLY took the win — again. He has won five of the last six national championships in his weapon (2017, 2018, 2021, 2022 and 2023), but this one proved especially difficult because he was coming off an injury that had sidelined him for about five weeks.

“I felt a little rusty,” he says. “This was a good time to get into the competitive mindset and get ready for a tough season.”

That tough season includes the start of Olympic qualification. While Itkin has already secured his spot on the 2023 Senior World Team, his next FIE World Cup event (May 5–7 in Acapulco, Mexico) will be the first of the Paris Olympic qualification cycle.

With 2023 Worlds qualification assured, Itkin didn’t “need” to compete in St. Louis. But, he says, he’s loved competing at NACs since he was a kid. And that made his fifth national title even sweeter.

“There's a lot of fencing at a NAC, but that competitive spirit? You can't get that in training,” he says. “I always love fencing these tournaments.”

Not to be lost in his enjoyment of NACs is his place in the record books. With five Division I national championships to his name, Itkin is now fourth on the all-time list of men’s foil fencers with the most national indoor titles. Only Michael Marx OLY (eight) and George Calnan OLY (six) have more.

(Update: Thanks to USA Fencing historian Andy Shaw, we know that Joe Levis won eight foil titles — six indoors and two outdoors — meaning he's tied with Marx.)

And there’s more. Itkin says a strong result here gives him “comfort and confidence” to start his season.

“I'm going to get ready for the next two events because those can make your season,” he says.

And in the Division I Men’s Epee team event, the victory by the quartet of Curtis McDowald OLY, Shomari Moore, Adam Rodney and Omari Smoak is the latest reminder that the Peter Westbrook Foundation excels in more than just saber.

Historically, 17 of the 23 team national championships won by the Peter Westbrook Foundation have come in saber. But this win in St. Louis marked the fourth title in epee and first since 2017.

“What’s the best weapon?” Rodney asked his teammates during a post-match interview.

“Epee,” was the unanimous answer from the team.

About the Trophies

Division I Women's Epee: Vinnie Bradford trophy

The Division I Women's Epee Trophy was commissioned by USA Fencing President Lewis Seigel originally as the Women's Epee Circuit championship trophy. U.S. epee Olympian and professional sculptor Peter Schifrin created this bronze using Vinnie Bradford as his model.

Vinnie Bradford was 4 times U.S. Epee Champion and 1984 Olympian.

Division I Men's Foil: John Alaire trophy

John Alaire was a strong advocate who promoted fencing at smaller clubs and YMCAs around the turn of the last century. At the first national championships of the AFLA, he competed in all three weapons and was silver medalist in the saber event. The national foil individual trophy was named in his memory.

Division I Women’s Saber: Ruby Watson

Ruby Watson of the Metro Division was a strong early advocate for the inclusion of Women's Epee and Women's Saber in U.S. Division I and Olympic events. A nationally ranked fencer in saber, epee and foil, Ruby is recognized for her tireless efforts to promote fencing and the inclusion of women in the sport.

Full Day 2 Results

Division I Women's Epee

Gold and National Champion: Hadley Husisian (Fencers Club Inc. / Princeton University)

Silver: Kat Holmes OLY (New York Athletic Club / DC Fencers Club)

Bronze: Ketki Ketkar (Cornell University / Kaizen Academy LLC)

Bronze: Karen Wang (Northwestern University / Alliance Fencing Academy)

5th: Elizabeth Zigalo (New York Fencing Academy)

6th: Francesca Bassa (Alliance Fencing Academy / LA International Fencing)

7th: Sharika Gajjala (Medeo Fencing Club)

8th: Margherita Guzzi Vincenti (Ataba Fencing Club)


Division I Women's Saber

Gold and National Champion: Nora Burke (Manhattan Fencing Center / Columbia University)

Silver: Kara Linder (University of Notre Dame)

Bronze: Maggie Shealy (Boston Fencing Club / Brandeis University)

Bronze: Lola Possick (Advance Fencing and Fitness Academy)

5th: Vera Kong (Columbia University / Southern California Fencing Academy (SOCALFA))

6th: Chloe Gouhin (Columbia University / Columbus Fencing and Fitness LLC)

7th: Siobhan Sullivan (Oregon Fencing Alliance)

8th: Teodora Kakhiani-Meckling (South Bay Fencing Academy)


Division I Men's Foil

Gold and National Champion: Nick Itkin OLY (LA International Fencing / University of Notre Dame)

Silver: Marcello Olivares (University of Notre Dame / Bluegrass Fencers' Club)

Bronze: James Bourtis (Rochester Fencing Club / New York Athletic Club)

Bronze: Chase Emmer (Massialas Foundation (M Team) / University of Notre Dame)

5th: Brandon Li (Princeton University / Marx Fencing Academy)

6th: Sidarth Kumbla (New York Athletic Club / Silicon Valley Fencing Center)

7th: Bryce Louie (LA International Fencing)

8th: Ethan Um (Marx Fencing Academy)


Division I Team Men's Epee

Gold and National Champion: Peter Westbrook Foundation (Curtis McDowald OLY, Shomari Moore, Adam Rodney, Omari Smoak)


Silver: Alliance Fencing Academy 1 (Samuel Imrek, Anton Piskovatskov, Michael Popovici, Miles Weiss)

Bronze: Fencers Club Gold (Justin Haddad, Henry Lawson, Nicholas Lawson, Tristan Szapary)


Junior Women's Foil

Gold: Erika Castaneda (Silicon Valley Fencing Center / Rain City Fencing Center)

Silver: Ryanne Leslie (V Fencing Club / PISTE Fencing Academy)

Bronze: Hailey Eyer (Manchen Academy of Fencing)

Bronze: Rachael Kim (Top Fencing Club)

5th: Katerina Lung (Moe Fencing Club LLC)

6th: Jia Chen (V Fencing Club)

7th: Emma Griffin (Space City Fencing Academy)

8th: Jaelyn Liu (Star Fencing Academy / Fencing Institute of Texas)


Junior Men's Saber

Gold: Will Morrill (Scarsdale Fencing Center / Fencers Club Inc.)

Silver: Jaden Callahan (Boston Fencing Club / South Bay Fencing Academy)

Bronze: Kevin Sohn (Southern California Fencing Academy (SOCALFA))

Bronze: Emilio Gonzalez (Scarsdale Fencing Center / Fencers Club Inc.)

5th: Elden Wood (Manhattan Fencing Center / University of North Carolina/Chapel Hill)

6th: Jordan Silberzweig (Manhattan Fencing Center)

7th: Grant Dodrill (University of Notre Dame / Alle Fencing Club)

8th: Jaesun Yun (Southern California Fencing Academy (SOCALFA))


Vet Combined Women's Foil

Gold: Inga Cho (Renaissance Fencing Club)

Silver: Julie Seal (Valkyrie Fencing Club)

Bronze: Jennette Starks-Faulkner (Connecticut Fencers Club)

Bronze: Rose Finter (Canada)

5th: Kathryn Pierrynowski (Research Triangle Fencing)

6th: Elizabeth (Badger) Merritt (Rockville Fencing Academy)

7th: Margaret Fagan (Fencers Club Inc.)

8th: Judith (Jude) Offerle (RedStar Fencing Club Chicago)


Vet Combined Men's Foil

Gold: Dong-Ying Pai (Twin Cities Fencing Club)

Silver: Andrey Tyshchenko (Australia)

Bronze: Michael Cho (Renaissance Fencing Club)

Bronze: Marek Wyszynski (Fencers Club Inc.)

5th: Roustam Pimoutkine (Fencers Club Inc.)

6th: Philippe Bennett (Fencers Club Inc.)

7th: Nestor Grajales (Stoccata Fencing Academy & Club)

8th: Chris Balestracci (Silver City Fencing Club / Fencers School of Connecticut)

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Tag(s): Updates  April 2023 NAC