RIFAC athletes complete busy summer, start new season

Fencers vie in two events to begin the 2022-23 circuit

Posted 9/22/22

EAST PROVIDENCE — The new month marked a new season for the athletes at the city-bases Rhode Island Fencing Academy, who took part in the Boston Fencing Club sponsored Regional Junior/Cadet …

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RIFAC athletes complete busy summer, start new season

Fencers vie in two events to begin the 2022-23 circuit


EAST PROVIDENCE — The new month marked a new season for the athletes at the city-bases Rhode Island Fencing Academy, who took part in the Boston Fencing Club sponsored Regional Junior/Cadet Circuit competition September 3-5.

Two Barrington fencers medaled in Junior events (for fencers aged 20 years old and under). Dahlia Pahlavi, who holds a national rating of “A,” achieved a 2nd place, silver medal victory in Junior Women’s Foil, while Emma Mueller tied for the 3rd place bronze in Junior Women’s Epee. With the top-three win, Emma renewed her “C” rating, last earned in 2021.

Alexandra Smuk, another Barrington athlete who also has a “C,” finished 6th in Cadet Women’s Epee (for fencers aged 17 years old and under). (National ratings range from “A” at the highest to “E.”)

Fore Kicks Sports Complex in Taunton hosted a second tournament, a Regional Youth Circuit/Junior-Cadet Circuit combined event.

Josh Shin from East Greenwich reached the medal podium with a 6th place victory in Junior Men’s Foil. Josh has a national rating of “B.” Marketa Douglas from Barrington, who has a “D,” scored a 7th place win in Y-14 Women’s Epee (for fencers aged 14 years old or under).

Sisters Dasha and Alexandra Smuk competed in the same Junior Women’s Epee event, finishing 6th and 7th respectively. Both sisters are rated “C.”

Summer Nationals
RIFAC athletes had a busy summer and spring as well, traveling to Minneapolis in July for the USA Fencing National Championships, the largest fencing tournament in the world. RIFAC fencers were among the over 4,500 competitors to crowd the Minneapolis Convention Center, all eager to seek the rewards of diligent training.

Charlotte Canning from Providence accepted the challenge in Division II Women’s Epee and won first place gold. Division II requires fencers to hold a minimal national rating of “C” (ratings range from “A” at the highest to “E”). Canning won five bouts and lost one in pools; she was ranked 11th of 127 fencers after this initial round. She received a first round bye, but proceeded to fight through five, successive direct elimination bouts to reach the championship bout which she won with a score of 15–12. Thanks to her first place win, she improved her national rating from “C” to “B,” a significant bonus to accompany the gold medal.

Alexandra Smuk from Barrington had a fantastic pool round, defeating every competitor she faced in Y-12 Women’s Epee (for athletes aged 12 and under). Based on her pool indicator (touches scored versus touches received), Smuk emerged 11th of 120 fencers after pools. She, too, had a first round bye and went on to win the next five DE bouts to reach the final round, ultimately earning the 2nd place silver.

Joshua Shin from East Greenwich overcame substantial difficulties to reach the medal podium in Division II Men’s Foil. In a pool of seven, Shin won only two of six bouts; he was then ranked 125th of 190 fencers. He was not awarded a first round bye, but easily defeated his first opponent 15-6. Shin continued his winning streak for five more rounds, not stopping until a loss in the semi-finals. Advancement from 125th to 3rd, a bronze medal, and a rating boost from “C” to “B”—well deserved accomplishments.

Dasha Smuk, older sister to Alexandra, secured a 5th place medal in Division II Women’s Epee. She lost only one of six pool bouts and was ranked 17th of 127 total fencers after the pool round. She received a first round bye followed by a string of successful DE bouts to reach the quarter finals. She just missed the semi-finals, losing her quarter final bout by only two points, finishing 5th.

Ethan Insler from Providence scored another medal for RIFAC with a 7th place finish in Division I-A Men’s Epee, a highly competitive, open event. He lost just one bout in pools, placing 23rd of 172 fencers after this initial round. He earned a bye followed by five, victorious DE bouts. Insler’s bout in the quarter finals attracted the attention of both teammates and spectators. He was slightly behind as time drew short, but tied the score with a spectacular touch with less than three seconds remaining. The bout went to priority, a suspenseful, 1-minute overtime, which resulted in a one-point loss for Ethan and his 7th place finish.

Pomme de Terre
Pomme de Terre is French for potato, but it’s also the name of a major, regional fencing tournament organized by Boston Fencing Club, traditionally hosted in June, this year the 18th and 19th, by Brandeis University at the Gosman Athletic Center.

The name, of course, has nothing to do with sports; it was made up years ago as a spoof of a Canadian tournament and as an advertising gimmick to attract participants—a scheme which has proved to be enormously successful. Hundreds of fencers of various age and ability levels flock to Waltham every year where lucky medalists might be the recipients of potato chips, potato peelers, potato mashers, potato stress balls, or for a gold medal, Mr. Potato head toy. Pomme de Terre is a unique and beloved, northeastern, fencing tradition.

Leila Hopkins and Natasha Connolly, both from Providence, earned medals in “E” and Under Women’s Foil (for fencers holding a national rating no higher than “E”—ratings range up from “E” to “A”). Hopkins captured the silver and Connolly bronze; unfortunately, they had to fence each other for these places, a direct elimination bout which Hopkins won by a single point. The girls did, however, earn the same national rating of “E” with their top-three finishes.

Alden Beals from Lakeville scored another bronze medal for RIFAC in “E” and Under Men’s Epee.

Three other RIFAC teammates reached the medal podium at Brandeis with 7th place finishes: Anika Breker from Barrington 7th in Senior Women’s Foil; Julia Douglas also from Barrington 7th in Senior Women’s Epee; Tom Bush from Pawcatuck, Conn., 7th in Veteran Men’s Epee.

Bay States Games
Also in June, the fencing event of the Bay States Games took place at Boston Fencing Club in Brighton. Competition was organized by weapon (foil, epee, and saber) and age group: junior (fencers aged 21 years old and under), senior (athletes with a minimum age of 13), and veteran (fencers aged 40 years old and over).

Sayid Achilov from S. Dartmouth won gold in Senior Men’s Foil, re-earning his “C” rating with the first place victory. (Ratings range from “A” at the highest to “E.”) He also competed in Junior Men’s Foil, securing a 7th place finish. Achilov earned another prize at the Bay State Games. In conjunction with the games’ organization and Dick’s Sporting Goods, he was one of two recipients of the official Sportsmanship Award. Achilov was observed by the sport commissioner to exhibit the highest degree of sportsmanship, reflecting his understanding and appreciation of the sport as well as respect for his opponents, the officials, coaches, and volunteers.

Josh Shin claimed the second place silver in Junior Men’s Foil. Like Sayid, Shin re-earned a “C” rating for 2022. Elliot Davidson from Barrington scored a third place bronze in Senior Men’s Foil and a fifth place win in Junior Men’s Foil. Angeline Costello from Tiverton entered two events and won bronze in both—Junior Women’s Foil and Senior Women’s Foil. Dahlia Pahlavi from Barrington placed 6th in Senior Women’s Foil.

May events
Koen Schenck overcame significant difficulties in Division IA Men’s Foil to claim the gold medal at a Regional Open Circuit (ROC) fencing tournament in Garfield, N.J., in May, defeating all opponents in a field of 54 total fencers.

Schenck managed three victories out of five bouts in pools and placed 29th after this initial round. Direct elimination bouts proved much more successful. Schenck worked through five DE’s with a few easy victories and one close call which he won with a score of 15 to 14. The gold medal bout was another close match for Schenck; he secured the gold with a slim, one-point margin. Schenck lives in Fall River and holds an “A” rating, the highest available from the United States Fencing Association.

RIFAC teammate Chaissen Costello from Tiverton also participated in DIV IA Men’s Foil at the New Jersey ROC. Costello won four and lost only one bout in pools, ranking 12th before DE’s. Like Schenck, Costello improved his standing in the DE round. He was victorious in three successive pool bouts until he encountered Koen in the quarter finals, ultimately finishing in 6th place.

RIFAC fencers also showed their strength in a local, Division III tournament at Worcester Fencing Club. Division III in fencing requires participants to hold a national rating of “D” or under (ratings range from “A” down to “E”). Leila Hopkins from Providence scored a second place silver in Women’s Epee.

Teammates Cora Powledge from Portsmouth and Lucienne Linden from Providence finished 6th and 7th respectively in Women’s Foil. Alden Beals from Rumford won a bronze in Men’s Epee and boosted his national rating from “E” to “D” with the 3rd place finish. Cameron Ostiguy from N. Kingstown placed 5th and Ian Thompson from Pawtucket 7th in the same Men’s Epee competition.

National Qualifier
At the qualifier for Summer Nationals which crowns national champions in multiple fencing categories Francesco Savoretti from Lincoln, Elliot Davidson from Barrington, and Koen Schenck from Fall River.

Savoretti led the team with a second place, silver medal victory in Division II Men’s Epee. His pool results were not quite as impressive as he might have liked with a 3-win and 3-loss record, putting him 13th after pools. His performance improved significantly, however, in the direct elimination round. He trounced his opponent in the first DE with a score of 15-2. Savoretti progressed through three more DE bouts until the final round where he collected the silver.

Elliot Davidson from Barrington overwhelmed his opponents in Division II Men’s Foil without a single pool loss. He received a first round bye and won two DE bouts before finishing 5th overall.

Koen Schenck from Fall River competed in Division I-A Men’s Foil where he accrued 4 wins to 1 loss in pools. He, too, earned a first round bye, and successfully overcame opponents in two DE bouts before his day ended with a 7th place finish. Seventy-five athletes competed in Schenck’s event. The 7th place win gained Koen a long-sought after rating of “A,” the highest available from the USFA.

Super Youth Circuit
Alexandra Smuk from Barrington competed in a Super Youth Circuit fencing tournament sponsored by Mission Fencing Center at Rocky Point, N.Y. As a representative of her training facility, Rhode Island Fencing Academy & Club (RIFAC), she won first place gold in Y-12 Women’s Epee (for athletes aged 12 years old and under) as well as second place silver in Y-14 Women’s Epee.

In the Y-12 competition, Smuk competed in a pool of eight, winning each of seven bouts. She was ranked 1st after this pool round and received a bye for her first direct elimination bout. Smuk had little difficulty in any of her subsequent DE’s. She had four more victories with scores of 15-10, 15-8, 15-7 and, in the gold medal bout, a score of 10-4. Smuk received an additional reward for her success, a rating increase from “D” to “C.” National ratings, which start with “A” at the highest, are granted by the United States Fencing Association for substantial achievement in qualifying tournaments.

Smuk started the Y-14 epee event as propitiously as she did the Y-12. She swept her pool of six and emerged 3rd after this initial round. Smuk’s first two DE’s presented little challenge; she won both 15-5. The next two bouts were much closer, though Alex prevailed with scores of 15-14 and 15-13, finishing her day with the silver medal.

RIFAC teammate Emma Mueller, also from Barrington, competed in the same Y-14 Women’s Epee event as Smuk. She performed efficiently in pools, losing only one of her bouts. She fenced in two successful DE’s to reach the round of eight, finishing 6th overall.

Division I event
The United States Fencing Association (USFA) held the Division I National Championships in Charlotte, N.C. saw Morgan Partridge from Swansea, herself a former Junior and Cadet World Championship Team member, had a hugely successful pool, winning every bout against tough competition. She was ranked 4th of 99 fencers after this initial round. Partridge received a bye for her first direct elimination bout and breezed through the next one with a score of 15-1. She had two successive victories, ultimately finishing 5th. Partridge not only won a 5th place medal, but she also renewed her “A” rating. She is a former member of the fencing team at Notre Dame University with multiple achievements in her NCAA career. Her previous credits include a number one national ranking in cadet women’s foil and membership on senior championship teams in women’s foil.

Anika Breker from Barrington competed in the same Division I Women’s Foil event. She placed 22nd of 99 after pools, high enough to receive a bye for round 1 of direct elimination. Breker proved victorious through two more rounds, finishing in 11th place overall, a significant improvement over her pool standing. Like Partridge, Breker holds a national rating of “A.” She is an active member of the Brown University fencing team, collecting more wins than any other women’s foil team member for the 2021-2022 NCAA season. She also has earned numerous medals in national, regional, and local tournaments.

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