A landmark weekend in the history of ND Athletics...

Swimmer Emma Reaney combined with fencers Lee Kiefer and Gerek Meinhardt to give Notre Dame three NCAA champions in the same academic year--a feat matched only three times before (once since World War II).


By Pete LaFleur

Three days was all it took.

During the weekend of March 21-23, 2014, three different University of Notre Dame student-athletes--women’s foil fencer Lee Kiefer, women’s swimmer Emma Reaney (200-yard breaststroke) and men’s foilist Gerek Meinhardt--all won NCAA individual titles, matching the most NCAA individual champions/national players of the year in Notre Dame history for one academic year.

The rarity of producing three NCAA champions/players of the year during the same academic year is a feat achieved only three times previously in the storied history of Notre Dame athletics. During the World War II era, Notre Dame quarterback Angelo Bertelli was the Heisman Trophy recipient in the fall of 1943 before the following spring semester (1944) saw Notre Dame’s Frank Martin win the NCAA two-mile run while Phil Anderson was the NCAA pole vault champion.

The more intriguing combination of Notre Dame triple titles came in 2000-01, as women’s soccer midfielder Anne Makinen received the 2000 Hermann Trophy and M.A.C. Award (in the fall), Ruth Riley was national player of the year for the 2000-01 women’s basketball season, and distance runner Ryan Shay won the NCAA outdoor 10,000 meters in the spring of 2001.

The only other academic year with three Notre Dame individual NCAA champions happened way back in 1921, all in track and field: Gus Desch (220-yard low hurdles), Johnny Murphy (high jump) and Eugene Obert (javelin).

Most Notre Dame NCAA Individual Champions/Players of Year in Same Academic Year:


-- Gus Desch (track and field; NCAA 220-yd low hurdles)

-- Johnny Murphy (track and field; NCAA high jump)

-- Eugene Obert (track and field; NCAA javelin)


-- Angelo Bertelli (football; Heisman Trophy)

-- Frank Martin (track and field; NCAA two-mile)

-- Phil Anderson (track and field; NCAA pole vault)


-- Anne Makinen (women’s soccer Hermann Trophy/M.A.C. Award)

-- Ruth Riley (women’s basketball player of the year)

-- Ryan Shay (NCAA 10,000 meters)


-- Lee Kiefer (women’s foil fencing)

-- Emma Reaney (women’s swimming 200-yd breaststroke)

-- Gerek Meinhardt (men’s foil fencing)


OTHER MULTI-CHAMPION YEARS: In addition to the four years referenced above, there have been only two other academic years in which Notre Dame student-athletes from different sports were an NCAA champion/player of the year. In 2006, Notre Dame’s Joe Lapira and Kerri Hanks became the first (and still only) individuals from the same school to sweep the M.A.C. Hermann Trophies, awarded annually to the top men’s and women’s soccer players in Division I. The only other time--in addition to 1920-21, 1943-44, 2000-01, 2006-07 and 2013-14--that Notre Dame has produced NCAA champions in different sports came in 2010-11, when men’s foilist Ariel DeSmet and women’s epeeist Courtney Hurley won their respective NCAA titles (they also were part of Notre Dame’s combined NCAA team title that year).

There also have been seven other years in which one Notre Dame team has produced multiple NCAA individual champions (including one involving Courtney Hurley’s older sister, Kelley):

• 1921 track and field (high jumper Johnny Murphy and javelin thrower Eugene Obert)

• 1926 track and field (pole vaulter Paul Harrington and miler Charles Judge)

• 1977 men's fencing (foilist Pat Gerard and sabreist Mike Sullivan)

• 1978 men's fencing (Sullivan and epeeist Bjorn Vaggo)

• 2002 women's fencing (foilist Alicja Kryczalo and epeeist Kerry Walton)

• 2004 women's fencing (Kryczalo and sabreist Valerie Providenza)

• 2008 women’s fencing (epeeist Kelley Hurley and sabreist Sarah Borrmann)

ALL-TIME NCAA CHAMPS/PLAYERS OF THE YEAR: With the addition of the 2014 titles recently won by Lee Kiefer, Emma Reaney and Gerek Meinhardt, Notre Dame athletics now has produced 53 NCAA individual/event champions, along with 14 others who have received an established national player-of-the-year honor (58 different individuals, including a four-man relay team, plus 10 multiple-year honorees, two of them rare three-time champs).

Notre Dame’s 53 NCAA individual/event champions have included 19 in men's track and field, with 18 won in individual events plus one relay (the 2013 indoor distance medley). All but three of Notre Dame’s NCAA track and field champions have come during the outdoor season.

Notre Dame men’s fencers (15) and women’s fencers (16) now have combined to win 31 NCAA weapon titles, led by eight in women’s foil and six in men’s foil, plus five in men’s epee, five in women’s epee, four in men’s sabre and three in women’s sabre.

Beyond the individual titles in track and field and fencing, Notre Dame student-athletes twice have won the NCAA men’s cross country race--with Reaney’s win in the 200-yard breaststroke rounding out the 53 NCAA titles.

In NCAA sports that do not sponsor individual competition, Notre Dame has produced 14 national player-of-the-year recipients: seven football Heisman Trophy winners and four honorees in women's soccer, plus one each in men's basketball, women's basketball and men's soccer.

RARE REPEATERS: Lee Kiefer and Gerek Meinhardt’s respective foil fencing titles at the 2014 NCAA Championships landed them on an exclusive list in Notre Dame’s athletics history--becoming the ninth and 10th student-athletes from Notre Dame to be an NCAA individual champion (or national player of the year) in multiple seasons. For nearly 65 years (1940-2003), that double-champion distinction had been achieved only twice, and also only once from 1989-2007. Notre Dame women’s soccer standout forward Kerri Hanks then etched her name firmly in the record books by becoming a rare two-time recipient of the M.A.C. Hermann Trophy national player-of-the-year in 2006 and ’08.

After so many years without any Notre Dame student-athletes managing to repeat as an NCAA individual champion, three Notre Dame fencers did it within a recent span of only 13 months: women’s epeeist Courtney Hurley (2011 and ’13 NCAA champion), Kiefer (’13 and ’14) and Meinhardt (’10, ’14). Notre Dame’s 10 all-time multiple NCAA champions/national players of the year now include six fencers among that exclusive group, with the initial three being sabre sensation Mike Sullivan (’77 and ’78 NCAA champ) along with women’s foilists Molly Sullivan (’86, ’88) and Alicja Kryczalo (’02, ’03, ’04).

Kryczalo--who lost the 2005 NCAA women’s foil final to Harvard’s Emily Cross (a 2008 United States Olympian)--is one of only two Notre Dame student-athletes ever to be a three-time NCAA champion, a distinction that Kiefer will be aiming for in 2015. Seven decades prior to Kryczalo’s historic collegiate career, Notre Dame legend Greg Rice twice won the NCAA two-mile race (in 1937 and ’39), while also being the 1938 NCAA cross country champion. Rice went on to receive the prestigious Sullivan Award in 1940, recognizing him as the best amateur athlete in the United States for that year.

Notre Dame’s first two multiple NCAA champions were members of the track and field program way back in the 1920s: high jumper Johnny Murphy (’21 and ’22 NCAA champ), followed by discus thrower Tom Lieb (’23 and ’24).

Notre Dame’s Multiple NCAA Champions (or National Players of the Year):

-- Johnny Murphy – NCAA high jump (1921 and ’22)

-- Tom Lieb – NCAA discus (1923 and ’24)

-- Greg Rice – NCAA outdoor two-mile (1937 and ’39) and cross country (fall ’38)

-- Mike Sullivan – NCAA men’s sabre fencing (1977 and ’78)

-- Molly Sullivan – NCAA women’s foil fencing (1986 and ’88)

-- Alicja Kryczalo – NCAA women’s foil fencing (2002, ’03 and ’04)

-- Kerri Hanks – women’s soccer M.A.C. Hermann Trophy (2006 and ’08)

-- Courtney Hurley – women’s epee fencing (2011 and ’13)

-- Lee Kiefer – women’s foil fencing (2013 and ’14)

-- Gerek Meinhardt – men’s foil fencing (2010 and ’14)

(Note: Rice and Kryczalo are Notre Dame’s only three-time NCAA champions; Kiefer has two years of eligibility remaining)

COMBINING NCAA AND OLYMPIC GLORY: Seven former NCAA champions/national players of the year from Notre Dame also have medaled in the Olympic Games, with 2014 NCAA fencing foil champions Gerek Meinhardt and Lee Kiefer, both Olympic veterans, hoping to join that list at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro. Current Notre Dame swimmer Emma Reaney, the 2014 NCAA champion in the 200-yard breaststroke, also could emerge as a 2016 Olympian.

Notre Dame NCAA Champions/Players of the Year Who Also Medaled in Olympic Games:

• Gus Desch – bronze medal in 400-meter hurdles (1920, Antwerp)

• Tom Lieb – bronze medal in discus (1924, Paris)

• Alex Wilson (Canada) – bronze medal in 4x400-meter relay  (1928, Amsterdam) before claiming three medals in Los Angeles (1932): silver in the 800, plus bronze in both the 400 and 4x400 (Wilson later served his alma mater as the Notre Dane track coach)

• Bjorn Vaggo (Sweden) – silver medal in men’s fencing epee (1984, Los Angeles)

• Mariel Zagunis – gold medal in women’s fencing sabre (2004 Athens, and ’08 Beijing)

• Ruth Riley – gold medal in women’s basketball (2004, Athens)

• Courtney Hurley – bronze medal in women’s fencing team epee (2012, London)

(Notes: Desch was the 1921 NCAA 200-yd low hurdles champion; Lieb won the NCAA discus in 1923 and ’24; Wilson was the 1931 NCAA 400-yd outdoor champ; Vaggo claimed the 1978 NCAA epee title, Zagunis the ‘06 women’s sabre crown; Riley earned numerous 2000-01 national player-of-the-year honors; Hurley won the NCAA women’s epee title in both 2011 and ’13)

NCAA TEAM AND INDIVIDUAL TITLES: Twelve different Notre Dame student-athletes have earned a top national honor/finish while also helping lead their team to a national title during that same season. It happened three times in the 1940s with the Irish football team, as Angelo Bertelli (1943), Johnny Lujack (1947) and Leon Hart (1949) each earned the Heisman Trophy while playing for national-title teams. Individual titles from fencers Mike Sullivan (sabre) and Pat Gerard (foil) were key parts to the Notre Dame men winning the team title in 1977, and the Irish fencers repeated in 1978, behind two more individual champions (Sullivan and epeeist Bjorn Vaggo). Women's basketball center Ruth Riley collected numerous national player-of-the-year honors as one of the leaders for Notre Dame's 2001-01 team that won the NCAA title. Most recently, women's foilist Alicja Kryczalo (2003) and men's epeeist Michal Sobieraj (2005) were key components to Notre Dame winning NCAA men's and women's combined fencing titles in both of those seasons--as were men’s foilist Ariel DeSmet and women’s epeeist Courtney Hurley with the 2011 Notre Dame team that won the NCAA fencing title.

Notre Dame’s NCAA Champs/Players of Year Who Also Won NCAA Team Title (same year):

* 1943 – Angelo Bertelli (football; Heisman Trophy)

* 1947 – Johnny Lujack (football; Heisman Trophy)

* 1949 – Leon Hart (football; Heisman Trophy)

* 1977 – fencers Pat Gerard (foil) and Mike Sullivan (sabre)

* 1978 – fencers Bjorn Vaggo (epee) and Mike Sullivan (sabre)

* 2000-01 – women’s basketball player Ruth Riley (national player of the year)

* 2003 – fencer Alicja Kryczalo (women’s foil)

* 2005 – fencer Michael Sobieraj (men’s epee)

* 2011 – fencers Ariel DeSmet (men’s foil) and Courtney Hurley (women’s epee)

(Note: Molly Sullivan was the NCAA women’s foil champion in 1986 and ’88, while also leading the Notre Dame women to the NCAA team title in ’87; the Irish were runners-up in both ’86 and ’88)

NOTRE DAME FENCING DOUBLE TITLES: Notre Dame fencing had never produced an NCAA men’s and women’s individual champion in the same year until 2011, when Ariel DeSmet won in men’s foil and Courtney Hurley in women’s epee to help the Irish capture the NCAA men’s and women’s combined fencing team title. Women’s foilist Lee Kiefer and men’s foilist Gerek Meinhardt then became the second women’s/men’s NCAA title combination in Notre Dame fencing history in 2014. There also have been four years with two NCAA women’s champions from the same Notre Dame team, along with two years when two different Notre Dame men’s fencers took home NCAA titles.

Notre Dame Fencing--Multiple NCAA Individual Titles in Same Year

* 1977 – Pat Gerard (men’s foil) and Mike Sullivan (men’s sabre)

* 1978 – Bjorn Vaggo (men’s epee) and Mike Sullivan (men’s sabre)

* 2002 – Alicja Kryczalo (women’s foil) and Kerry Walton (women’s epee)

* 2004 – Alicja Kryczalo (women’s foil) and Valerie Providenza (women’s sabre)

* 2008 – Kelley Hurley (women’s epee) and Sarah Borrmann (women’s sabre)

* 2011 – Ariel DeSmet (men’s foil) and Courtney Hurley (women’s epee)

* 2013 – Lee Kiefer (women’s foil) and Courtney Hurley (women’s epee)

* 2014 – Lee Kiefer (women’s foil) and Gerek Meinhardt (men’s foil)

(Note: 2011 and 2014 are the only years in which Notre Dame has produced both an NCAA men’s and women’s fencing champion.)

TWO-YEAR TEAR: The four NCAA individual titles won by Notre Dame fencers over the past two years equals the most in program history over any two-year period. Spanning the 1977-78 seasons, Notre Dame fencers combined to win NCAA titles in all three men’s weapons (two in sabre, one each in foil and epee). Over the past two seasons (2013-14), Notre Dame’s NCAA titles have included two in women’s foil, one women’s epee and one men’s foil.

Notre Dame Fencing--Four Weapon Titles in Two-Year Stretch


’77 – Pat Gerard (men’s foil) and Mike Sullivan (men’s sabre)

’78 – Bjorn Vaggo (men’s epee) and Mike Sullivan (men’s sabre)


’13 – Lee Kiefer (women’s foil) and Courtney Hurley (women’s epee)

’14 – Lee Kiefer (women’s foil) and Gerek Meinhardt (men’s foil)

(Notes: Notre Dame’s four weapon titles over the past two years easily represents the most by any school in that two-year span; Stanford fencers won two titles from 2013-14, plus one each from Princeton, Harvard, Ohio State, St. John’s, Penn and Penn State. Over the six-year span of Meinhardt’s college career, 2009-14, Notre Dame men’s and women’s foilists combined to win five NCAA titles (Penn State had two total foil titles in that span, plus one each from Columbia, Harvard, Ohio State, St. John’s and Stanford).

MORE ON MEINHARDT: Foilist Gerek Meinhardt capped his career as only the fifth Notre Dame fencer (three men, two women) to reach the NCAA medal round/semifinals in all four years, after winning the title in 2010 and ’14 while also being the 2009 runner-up (lost 15-14) and losing a 15-14 semifinal bout in 2013. Two-time NCAA men’s sabre champion Mike Sullivan (’77, ’78) also placed third in ’76 and was the ’79 runner-up. Foilist Charles Higgs-Coulthard won the NCAA men’s foil title as a freshman in 1984, before returning to the semifinals each of the next three seasons. More recently, women’s foilist Alicja Kryczalo was a three-time NCAA champion (2002-04, also ’05 runner-up), while Courtney Hurley reached the 2009 and ’10 women’s epee semifinals, before winning the title in both ’11 and ’13. Meinhardt also joined Sullivan, Kryczalo and three-time NCAA men’s sabre runner-up Patrick Ghattas (2005-07) as the only Notre Dame fencers ever to reach three or four NCAA title bouts.

TOP NOTRE DAME FEMALE PERFORMERS: Notre Dame female student-athletes now have been national player of the year/NCAA champion 20 times (by 14 individuals). That group includes the three soccer players who have earned the Hermann Trophy/M.A.C. Award (midfielders Cindy Daws in '96, and Anne Makinen in 2000, then forward Kerri Hanks in '06 and ’08), plus basketball player Ruth Riley (2000-01 season) and 10 in fencing: Molly Sullivan (foil, 1986 and '88), Heidi Piper (foil, '91), Magda Krol (epee, '97), Kerry Walton (epee, '02), Alicja Kryczalo (foil, '02-'04), Valerie Providenza (sabre, '04), Mariel Zagunis (sabre, '06), Sarah Borrmann (sabre, ’08), Courtney Hurley (epee, ’11 and ’13) and Lee Kiefer (foil, ’13 and ’14). Current women’s swimmer Emma Reaney (200 breaststroke, ’14) rounds out the group.

Notre Dame’s All-Time National Players of the Year and NCAA Individual/Event Champions (58 individuals; 67 total titles/honors):

1921 ... Gus Desch ... NCAA Champion ... men's outdoor track (220-yard low hurdles)

1921 ... Johnny Murphy ... NCAA Champion ... men's outdoor track (high jump)

1921 ... Eugene Obert ... NCAA Champion ... men’s outdoor track (javelin)

1922 ... Johnny Murphy ... NCAA Champion ... men's outdoor track (high jump)

1923 ... Tom Lieb ... NCAA Champion ... men's outdoor track (discus)

1924 ... Tom Lieb ... NCAA Champion ... men's outdoor track (discus)

1926 ... Paul Harrington ... NCAA Champion ... men's outdoor track (pole vault)

1926 ... Charles Judge ... NCAA Champion ... men's outdoor tack (mile)

1931 ... Alex Wilson ... NCAA Champion ... men's outdoor track (440 yards)

1933 ... Vincent Murphy ... NCAA Champion ... men's outdoor track (high jump)

1937 ... Greg Rice ... NCAA Champion ... men's outdoor track (two miles)

1938 ... Greg Rice ... NCAA Champion ... cross country

1939 ... Greg Rice ... NCAA Champion ... men's outdoor track (two miles)

1942 ... Oliver Hunter ... NCAA Champion ... cross country

1943 ... Angelo Bertelli ... Heisman Trophy ... football

1944 ... Frank Martin ... NCAA Champion ... men’s outdoor track (two miles)

1944 ... Phil Anderson ... NCAA Champion ... men's outdoor track (pole vault)

1947 ... Johnny Lujack ... Heisman Trophy ... football

1949 ... Leon Hart ... Heisman Trophy ... football

1953 ... Johnny Lattner ... Heisman Trophy ... football

1955 ... Don Tadrowski ... NCAA Champion ... men's fencing (epee)

1956 ... Aubrey Lewis ... NCAA Champion ... men's outdoor track (440-m intermediate hurdles)

1956 ... Paul Hornung ... Heisman Trophy ... football

1964 ... John Huarte ... Heisman Trophy ... football

1970 ... Rick Wohlhuter ... NCAA Champion ... men's indoor track (600 yards)

1971 ... Austin Carr ... AP and UPI National Player of the Year ... men's basketball

1972 ... Tom McMahon ... NCAA Champion ... men’s indoor men's track (55-meter hurdles)

1977 ... Pat Gerard ... NCAA Champion ... men's fencing (foil)

1977 ... Mike Sullivan ... NCAA Champion ... men's fencing (sabre)

1978 ... Mike Sullivan ... NCAA Champion ... men's fencing (sabre)

1978 ... Bjorn Vaggo ... NCAA Champion ... men's fencing (epee)

1979 ... Andy Bonk ... NCAA Champion ... men's fencing (foil)

1983 ... Ola Harstrom ... NCAA Champion ... men's fencing (epee)

1984 ... Charles Higgs-Coulthard ... NCAA Champion ... men's fencing (foil)

1986 ... Molly Sullivan ... NCAA Champion ... women's fencing (foil)

1987 ... Tim Brown ... Heisman Trophy ... football

1988 ... Molly Sullivan ... NCAA Champion ... women's fencing (foil)

1990 ... Jubba Beshin ... NCAA Champion ... men's fencing (epee)

1991 ... Heidi Piper ... NCAA Champion ... women's fencing (foil)

1996 ... Cindy Daws ... Hermann Trophy/M.A.C. Award ... women's soccer

1997 ... Magda Krol ... NCAA Champion ... women's fencing (epee)

1998 ... Luke LaValle ... NCAA Champion ... men's fencing (sabre)

1999 ... Gabor Szelle ... NCAA Champion ... men's fencing (sabre)

2000 ... Anne Makinen... Hermann Trophy/M.A.C. Award... women's soccer

2001 ... Ruth Riley ... National Player of the Year ... women's basketball

2001 ... Ryan Shay ... NCAA Champion ... men's outdoor track (10,000 meters)

2002 ... Kerry Walton ... NCAA Champion ... women's fencing (epee)

2002 ... Alicja Kryczalo ... NCAA Champion ... women's fencing (foil)

2003 ... Alicja Kryczalo ... NCAA Champion ... women's fencing (foil)

2004 ... Alicja Kryczalo ... NCAA Champion ... women's fencing (foil)

2004 ... Valerie Providenza ... NCAA Champion ... women's fencing (sabre)

2005 ... Michal Sobieraj ... NCAA Champion ... men's fencing (epee)

2006 ... Mariel Zagunis ... NCAA Champion ... women's fencing (sabre)

2006 ... Joe Lapira ... M.A.C. Hermann Trophy ... men's soccer

2006 ... Kerri Hanks ... M.A.C. Hermann Trophy ... women's soccer

2008 ... Sarah Borrmann ... NCAA Champion ... women’s fencing (sabre)

2008 ... Kelley Hurley ... NCAA Champion ... women’s fencing (epee)

2008 ... Kerri Hanks ... M.A.C. Hermann Trophy ... women’s soccer

2010 ... Gerek Meinhardt ... NCAA champion ... men’s fencing (foil)

2011 ... Ariel DeSmet ... NCAA champion ... men’s fencing (foil)

2011 ... Courtney Hurley ... NCAA champion ... women’s fencing (epee)

2012 ... Distance Medley Relay ... NCAA champion ... men’s indoor track

(Johnathan Shawel/1,200m, Chris Giesting/400m, Randall Babb/800m & Jeremy Rae/mile)

2013 ... Courtney Hurley ... NCAA champion ... women’s fencing (epee)

2013 ... Lee Kiefer ... NCAA champion ... women’s fencing (foil)

2014 ... Lee Kiefer ... NCAA champion ... women’s fencing (foil)

2014 ... Gerek Meinhardt ... NCAA champion ... men’s fencing (foil)

2014 ... Emma Reaney ... NCAA champion ... women’s swimming (200 breaststroke)

(Notes: Player-of-the-year honors refer to those bestowed by established national coaching and media organizations. The list includes 53 NCAA individual/event champions--19 men's track and field, 16 women’s fencing, 15 men's fencing, two men's cross country and one women’s swimming--and 14 national player-of-the-year recipients--seven football, four women's soccer, one men's basketball, one women's basketball and one men's soccer. There are 58 individuals on this list, including eight two-time champions/players of the year, a pair of three-time champions, and one four-man relay team.)

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