Track and field, fencing head for NCAA competitions

Going into final stages of winter season, squads have records of accomplishment

Photos/Sportspix, Jan Volk

Men's fencing team won the New England fencing title by 20 points over Sacred Heart.

Victoria Sanford '15 anchored distance medley relay.

The Brandeis fencing and track and field teams head into the final stages of the winter season hoping to make some noise at their respective NCAA championships.

In track and field, senior Alex Kramer will represent the Judges at the NCAA Division III Indoor Championships at North Central College in Napierville, Ill., this weekend. Meanwhile, the fencers hope to qualify for the NCAA National Collegiate championships at the end of the month in San Antonio at this weekend’s Northeast Regional qualifier at St. John’s University.

Kramer turned in the 14th-fastest time in Division III in the mile run at Tufts University’s Last Chance Meet on March 3. His season- and lifetime-best time of 4:12.66 earned him the ninth seed at NCAAs after several other qualifiers chose to focus on other events. He will be one of five runners from New England entered in the mile.

Kramer is looking to become Brandeis's second-straight All-American in the mile run; Chris Brown '12 placed third at the NCAAs mile last year. Kramer will run in the preliminaries at 4:55 p.m. Eastern Time/3:55 Central on Friday, March 8. The finals will be held at 2:30 p.m. Eastern/1:30 Central on Saturday, March 9. You can follow the meet on-line

For the fencers, three Judges have an outstanding chance of making it to the national championships, where they will compete against the top collegiate fencers from Division I, II and III. Freshman Caroline Mattos, a women’s foil fencer, has compiled the team’s best record this season at 72 wins against just 13 losses.

Junior Julian Cardillo, is looking for a third-straight NCAA berth in men’s foil after getting off to a slow start to a season  in which he spent the fall semester abroad in Italy. Sophomore Adam Mandel, a five-time University Athletic Association Fencer of the Week, has an excellent shot in the men’s sabre as well. The NCAA Northeast Regional will be covered on thanks to St. John’s University.

Earlier this season, both programs captured championships at major meets.

Hosting the 2013 New England Intercollegiate Fencing Championships in the Gosman Athletic Center on Feb. 23, the Judges took home the overall team title, three weapons titles and two individual championships.

The track and field squads traveled to Cleveland on Feb. 23 and 24 for the University Athletic Association indoor championships, where they ran away with two individual and one relay title and three other All-UAA performances.

The fencing team put on a terrific overall showing, finishing with 196 points, well ahead of Boston College's 177. The Brandeis men outpaced second-place Sacred Heart University, 89-79, while the women edged Boston College, 107-105.

“This was a tremendous all-around performance,” said head coach Bill Shipman. “The rest of the coaching staff and I could not have hoped for a better performance. It was a fitting way to send off a group of seniors -- Mike Zook, Harry Kaufer, Zoe Messinger, Emmily Smith – who have been four of the most devoted, selfless and enthusiastic fencers I have ever had.”

In the weapons rankings, Brandeis won the three different events in which they have been strong all season, but it was strong showings in the other three weapons that allowed the Judges to take home the team title. Leading the way was the men's saber squad, which posted a 33-1 mark. The men's foil squad was 31-3 and edged Sacred Heart on tiebreakers. The Judges also got a 40-3 record from the women's foil squad to take that weapon as well. Women's epee finished second (35-8) to BC (39-4), while women's saber (32-10) and men's epee (25-10) both were in third place.

Brandeis had two individual champions and three runners-up on the day. Junior Julian Cardillo, a two-time NCAA qualifier, won the men's foil; sophomore Noah Berman was second in the event. In the saber, Brandeis had three of the top six finishers, with sophomores Adam Mandel and Jess Ochs-Willard  taking the top spots and classmate Ben Loft placing sixth. Brandeis's other runner-up was Caroline Mattos whose only loss of the day – and just her 13th loss of the season – came in the finals of the single-elimination bracket. Senior captain Zoe Messinger was sixth in the women's saber.

The track and field squads headed to Case Western Reserve University for the UAA championships. While they weren’t as successful from a team standpoint – the women finished sixth out of seven teams, the men were seventh – the Judges came away with three titles and two second-place finishes.

Perhaps the most surprising outcome of the meet came when the Brandeis women won the distance medley relay. Unseeded headed into the meet, the Judges took home the UAA title by just over three seconds ahead second-place Chicago with a time of 12:12.91. Junior Amelia Lundkvist ran the lead 1,200-meter leg, followed by senior Casey McGown in the 400. Rookie Kelsey Whitaker ran the 800-meter leg and junior Victoria Sanford anchored with the mile run. Each of Brandeis’s first three runners stayed near the front of the pack. Whitaker handed off to Sanford in second place, and the junior put on a kick in the final 300 meters to take the victory. It was the first All-UAA honor for any of the four runners.

“They ran a terrific tactical race,” said head coach John Evans. “For their first time running the distance medley relay this season, it was an exciting finish.”

The men’s distance medley relay also took home All-UAA honors with a third-place finish. Senior Mik Kern led off the distance  relay, with rookie soccer standout Josh Hacunda running the second leg. Sophomore Taylor Dundas ran the third leg  and senior Alex Kramer anchored.

Kramer and Kern continued  their success on the second day of the meet. The top two seeds headed into the championship in the mile run, Kramer and Kern did not disappoint, as they finished first and second, respectively, in the individual event. Kramer edged his classmate by 34-hundredths of a second (4:20:23 to 4:20.57), keeping the mile title with the Judges after Chris Brown ’12 had won the event the year before. It was Kramer’s third individual All-UAA performance in his career, having placed third in the 3,000 as a freshman and second in that event as a junior, and the first for Kern.

Brandeis’s other champion was no stranger to the podium. Junior Vincent Asante, who was the 2011 UAA Rookie of the Year both indoors and outdoors, claimed his second career title in the 55-meter dash and third overall. Asante won one of the closest races of the meet in dramatic fashion. Seeded second, he ran the second-fastest time in preliminaries, 6.55 seconds, two-hundredths of a second behind Noel Titus of Carnegie Mellon. In the finals, the margin was even slimmer, as Asante edged Demetrious Brizzolara of Chicago by a mere one-hundredth of a second, 6.55 to 6.56, unfortunately pulling his hamstring in the process. In an excellent display of sportsmanship, Brizzolara helped escort Asante to the podium to receive his medal. Asante went on to help the Judges earn an extra point at the championship in the 200-meter dash. Having qualified as the fifth seed in the prelims of the 200, with a time of 22.90 seconds, a season-best, Asante walked the single-lap race in more than a minute with a severely taped up leg.

Rounding out the All-UAA performances for the Judges at the meet was senior Kim Farrington in the women’s triple jump. Farrington, who had scored points in five previous UAA championship meets, earned her second career All-Association honor by placing second in the event, up one spot from her previous best, which came indoors in 2011. Farrington set a lifetime best  on her final jump of the meet, reaching 11.07 meters (36 feet, four inches), overtaking the third-place finisher on that leap.

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