The triumphant lyrics of "Roar Lion Roar" emanated from the huddle of the Columbia's men and women's fencing squad on February 22. The teams appeared as one to the crowd who had watched them both defeat Penn for respective 2003 Ivy League championships. The unity they displayed has been a decisive factor in clinching the championship rings.
"I think the biggest key to our season this year has been the great spirit of the team," said George Kolombatovich, co-head coach for both teams. "For example, at the end of our meet on Saturday the entire team got into a circle -- men and women all together -- locked arms, and sang 'Roar Lions Roar.' That kind excitement, that kind of spirit is just tremendous, and I think what's happened is that really developed over this whole year."
Despite the spirit of unity there are many standouts -- especially among first year students. Emma Barratta, who was recently featured in Sports Illustrated's "Faces in the Crowd," is fifth in the Junior Women's Saber standings and 16th overall in the nation, coming in third at a World Cup event in Italy in November. Barratta is 30-0 in NCAA competition to date, the longest undefeated run for first-year men or women in the history of the University. She is also a John Jay Scholar.
The women's team, co-captained by foil Ellen Blout, CC '03, and epee Monica Conley, CC '03, capped an undefeated season this year. The women's team regained the championship for the first time since 1999. Since the team's inception in 1981, Columbia's women have hauled in 6 championship trophies.
The men's team split the championship with Penn after putting an end to the Quakers' undefeated season. "They were just not going to lose," Kolombatovich explained of the Lions' 17-10 rout of Penn to split the rings. The men also have two athletes in the top 20 under-21 rankings. Senior co-captain Kevin Eriksen is 19th overall in the national rankings for foil while his co-captain, junior saber Andrew Sohn, CC '04, is 32 overall. The men have won 30 titles in their history.
This is the first time since 1993 that both the men and women's teams have won the titles simultaneously.
"No individual gets our there on the fencing strip trying to win for her or himself; everyone's working hard for the team," said Kolombatovich who owns an astounding 440 -124 record in his 24-year career. "It really helps and makes a difference. They try as hard as they can and I couldn't ask for more of them."