Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Fencing: Northwestern’s Sky Miller leaves indelible mark on Ryan Fieldhouse

Anna Watson/The Daily Northwestern
Senior saberist Sky Miller starred at the Northwestern Duals over the weekend, winning over half her bouts.

Dozens of eager competitors descended upon Ryan Fieldhouse for this weekend’s Northwestern Duals, beckoning collegiate fencers spanning from the East to the West coast.

The 96,135 square foot host venue gleaned with a radiant interior, echoing a blend of joyful cheers and anguished cries throughout the weekend. 

When senior saberist Sky Miller took her steps under the glaring lights, she performed and delivered as she’s routinely done throughout her storied Wildcat career.

“Sometimes it doesn’t feel at all, and then other times it feels surreal. I can’t believe that it’s almost over,” Sky Miller said. “This is just one of the best facilities for collegiate fencing in the U.S. I’m so happy I got to fence at least a few more times.”

One last time, the North Carolina native donned her stainless steel mask amid a lively crowd of her NU teammates. 

Completing the first day of competition with three wins and three losses, she eased through Sunday, securing victories in all nine of her bouts against Boston College, Ohio State and Fairleigh Dickinson. The ‘Cats wrapped up the weekend undefeated, besting three time-defending NCAA champions Notre Dame.

“Sky’s been instrumental in our team’s success for over four years,” coach Zach Moss said. “She really has set a tone for what our program can and should accomplish.”

From the age of 10, Sky Miller jumped into fencing, despite a small fencing community in her hometown of Durham. 

She had previously danced semi-competitively, but her father Paul Miller decided to put her into the sport after watching the 2012 Olympics on television.

“Sky’s a very competitive person, and I wanted something that was competitive,” he said. 

Her afternoons soon consisted of a regular rendezvous at the fencing club within walking distance from her school. After notching up victories at local regional tournaments by age 12, she soon found familiar success, consistently placing among the top athletes on the national circuit. 

The miles traveled across the country soon turned into international flights around the world. She won a gold medal in the 16U world division in Mödling, Austria in 2018 on the Cadet World Circuit. 

Once she reached high school, the four-time first-team USA Fencing All American took her chance to be on the Cadet U.S. World Team, missing the team by one spot.

“It’s a thrill like riding a roller coaster sometimes, you go up and down,” Paul Miller said.  “She’s done very well, she’s had bad days, she’s had great days. It’s just the whole journey of the thing.”

Her commitment and arrival to NU in 2020 coincided with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Although required to wear a mask underneath her helmet and follow health and safety protocols, she felt team practices slowly foster a camaraderie and said she enjoyed the new team element of the sport compared to when she fenced individually.

“The highest priority is to focus on the team and being a collective, which for an individual sport, that’s one of the biggest challenges to overcome, but it has also been the most rewarding thing in the evolution from my freshman year,” Sky Miller said.

A year later, she etched her mark in NU fencing history, recording a historic second-place finish at the NCAA tournament — the highest ranking in program history.

Sky Miller said the idea of resilience has always stuck with her. Consistent long nights of practices and competitions helped solidify her athlete mindset, and she has continued to make strides in collegiate competitions since.

Sunday may have marked Miller’s final time fencing on her home turf, but as she looks to the future, one thing is certain: her eternal passion for the sport.

“I will never stop,” she said.

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @Jerrwu

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