PRINCETON, N.J. — The Ivy League's fencing coaches were talking about Nzingha Prescod's decision to attend Columbia even before the Brooklyn resident entered the University in September, or began fencing for the Lions in January.
When their teams finally came face-to-face with Prescod last weekend, at the Ivy League Round-Robin Fencing Championships, they learned that she was all that they had anticipated … and more.
Prescod helped the Columbia women's team to a well-earned second place in the Ivy League by winning 16 of 18 bouts in women's foil, tying (with three others) for the best record in Ivy competition. So superb was her fencing in the two-day tournament — she registered 86 touches and allowed only 29 — that the Ivy League coaches voted her the first Ivy League Women's Most Outstanding Rookie … unanimously.
She was joined on the award stand in Princeton's Jadwin Gymnasium by the Men's Outstanding Rookie, Cornelius Saunders of Yale, and by the two fencers voted the Ivy League's Most Outstanding Performers, Caroline Vloka of Harvard, the defending NCAA women's sabre champion, and Alexander Mills of Princeton.
Vloka also matched Prescod's 16-2 record, as did two other sabre fencers, Princeton's Eliza Stone and Nzingha's Columbia teammate, Loweye Diedro.
Although there were other contenders for the outstanding rookie award, they paled in comparison to the Columbia newcomer. She posted 3-0 records against every opponent except Harvard.
She swept through Brown, for instance, incurring only one touch, winning two bouts by 5-0 scores and one by 5-1. She had a 5-0 win and two 5-1 victories against Princeton, which edged the Lions for the women's team title, while allowing just three touches by Yale, four by Cornell and eight by Penn.
Prescod sustained her two defeats at the hands of Harvard, 5-4 to Alexandra Kiefer, who joined her as a first team All-Ivy League selection, and 5-2 to Shelby Macleod. But she defeated her other Harvard opponent, Kathy Chou, by a 5-1 score.
Columbia head coach George Kolombatovich, well-known throughout his coaching career as an innovator, had urged his fellow coaches to elect outstanding fencers and outstanding rookies at each Ivy championship, like the coaches of most other Ivy League sports do. They finally took Kolombatovich up on his suggestion this year, and Prescod's unanimous selection was a fitting tribute to her coach.