Rhode Island Fencing Academy athletes fare well in recent events

Ripa-coached Brown women's squad medals at regional collegiate competition

Posted 3/20/24

Several local competitors with ties to the city-based Rhode Island Fencing Academy under the direction Alex Ripa have enjoyed success in recent competitions, including the Brown University’s …

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Rhode Island Fencing Academy athletes fare well in recent events

Ripa-coached Brown women's squad medals at regional collegiate competition


Several local competitors with ties to the city-based Rhode Island Fencing Academy under the direction Alex Ripa have enjoyed success in recent competitions, including the Brown University’s women’s and men’s club teams that both earned silver medals for their second place combined performance at the New England Intercollegiate Fencing Conference Championships held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass.

NEIFC member colleges and universities include, among others, Brown, MIT, Brandeis, Tufts, Dartmouth, Boston University, UConn, Smith, UMass and URI. Full-time, undergraduate students at member schools in good standing who had pre-registered for the tournament were eligible to fence in the championship. The format was essentially round robin with teams rated and promoted after two initial rounds.

The Brown women’s foil team fenced a spectacular first round and was rated first of 16 teams at that point; the succeeding rounds were similarly successful, with Brown ultimately victorious, claiming gold in their category.

The Brown’s men’s foil team fenced the event and were ranked third after the first round; they elevated their game as the competition progressed, winning gold to equal the women’s record.

The women’s epee team carried Brown to a silver medal, second place victory after emerging from the initial round robin in third place.

Final tournament awards were calculated by considering the scores of all three fencing weapons (foil, epee, and saber) for either women’s or men’s teams.

The Brown women train at RIFAC and are coached by Ripa.

Jr. Olympic results
Boston Fencing Club hosted two tournaments that served as qualifiers for the Junior Olympics national tournament scheduled to take place in Charlotte. JOs is a prestigious and challenging event for athletes in the obvious Junior category (for fencers aged 20 years old or under) and the Cadet category (for fencers aged 17 years old or under).

RIFAC's Grady Hazlett and Gareth Stafford, both from Barrington, competed in Cadet Men’s Foil. Grady earned top-three honors with a bronze medal finish. With the win, he also earned a national rating of “E.” Ratings range from “A” at the highest to “E.” Gareth followed closely behind with a 6th place victory. Both qualified for JOs.

Cora Powledge from Portsmouth assured her participation at JOs with a bronze medal win in Cadet Women’s Foil. Cora also competed in Junior Women’s Foil, finishing 5th, but outside the qualifying parameters.

Jack Masse from Rumford snagged his JO berth with a 6th place finish in Cadet Men’s Epee.

Other top-eight, but non-qualifying, medalists from RIFAC included Joseph Ripa from Barrington who cinched 8th in both Cadet and Junior Men’s Foil and Didi Sklar from Providence who placed 6th in Junior Women’s Epee. The 6th place victory earned Didi a new “E” rating. Natasha Connolly also from Providence finished 8th in the same epee event, renewing her “E” rating. Ian Thompson from Pawtucket nailed 8th in Junior Men’s Epee.

Richmond event
Two of Rhode Island’s most accomplished, young epee fencers, scored big at a North American Cup national tournament in Richmond, Va. Emma Mueller and Alexandra Smuk, both from Barrington: secured top-eight medals in epee; Mueller won a 3rd place bronze in Junior Women’s Epee while teammate and close friend Smuk captured 7th in Cadet Women’s Epee.

The cadet category limits athletes to those aged 17 years old and under; the junior category to those aged 20 years old and under. Both girls entered the competition with national ratings of “B” on a scale ranging from “E” to “A,” with “A,” quite obviously, being the highest available. With their respective, significant successes in Richmond, Mueller and Smuk ratings were boosted to the prestigious status of “A.”

Smuk impressed in pools with victories in every bout. She was ranked third of 112 fencers after this initial round and went into direct elimination with a well-deserved, first round bye. The bye was followed by two, consistent DE wins with scores of 15-8 each. Smuk’s fourth round was closer; she won by only two points. The fifth round, unfortunately, was a bit too tough, but a 7th place medal and a new rating must have been satisfying rewards.

Mueller had four wins and one loss in pools. She was ranked only 27th of 135 total fencers after this round—good enough, nevertheless, for a first round bye. She showed great determination and skill in the next three DE rounds, winning without meaningful opposition. Mueller’s fifth round bout was much closer, though still successful at 15-12. She lost her last bout in the semi-finals with a heartbreaking final score of 13 to 12.

Connecticut tourneys
Neil Lazar was a celebrated fencer who excelled in all three weapons—foil, epee, and saber. He was a national competitor, a coach, and a member of the United States Fencing Association’s Hall of Fame. Until this year, he was posthumously honored with a well-attended, regional tournament held late last fall in Connecticut.

This year, he was honored with two competitions—the first a Regional Youth Circuit/Regional Junior-Cadet Circuit event held, as usual, at the end of September. Athletes competing in this tournament ranged by age from 20 years old and under in the Junior category to 10 years old and under in the Y-10 category. The second Neil Lazar tournament took place during the weekend of November. This event featured Division 1A, Division II, and Veterans events. Entry requirements for each category varied: Division IA has a minimum age of 13; Division II has a maximum national rating of “C” (mid way between “A” at the top and “E” at the bottom); Veterans events have a minimum age of 40.

Of the athletes from the RIFAC who participated in the competition, two reached the top eight in their respective events. Veteran fencer Tom Bush from Pawcatuck, Conn., scored well in both Division II Men’s Epee and Veterans Men’s Epee with a 3rd place bronze and an 8th place finish respectively. In the pool round of Division II, Bush had success with 5 wins and only 1 loss. He was ranked in a tie for 5th after pools. He received a first round bye in Direct Elimination, then progressed with victories through four more DE bouts until a close loss in the semi-finals. In the Veteran event, Bush had four wins and two losses in pools. He had another first round bye followed by two more wins before his victorious streak was ended.

Elliot Davidson from Barrington reached the podium with a 6th place victory in Division II Men’s Foil. He had an outstanding pool round in which he defeated all six of his opponents. Davidson was ranked 4th overall after pools. He earned a first round bye and continued to win through three more DE bouts despite recovering from a week-long illness preventing significant practice. Davidson’s final DE was close with a score of 15-13, but not quite enough to move him into the semi-finals.

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