Girls varsity fencing begins with opener hosted by THHS

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In the PSAL Girls Fencing Season Opener, a tournament in which 78 girls from twelve different schools met to compete in their style of fencing, the THHS girls team kicked off their season with a flourish: one medal and multiple semifinal finishes.

Hosted at Townsend Harris on March 17, the Opener was attended by schools such as Hunter, Cardozo, and Stuyvesant.  Despite this competition, senior foilist Alanna Leung ended her third and last year at the opener with a sixth place medal out of the 32 other foilists.

“Opener is probably the most tiring thing I’ve ever done,” said Alanna, reflecting on her success.

Sophomore epeeist Emily Cirulnick, who achieved 14th place, said about her first time fencing at the opener, “I’m just amazed at how far I got. Opener makes me want to work harder so next year I can become a medalist or a starter.”

Senior epeeist Fariha Hussein and freshman epeeist Rebekah Jones finished in seventh and eighth place respectively. Fariha was the City Champion in girls epee fencing last year, and has medaled in previous openers.

“I let my emotions get the best of me. But I’m not too disappointed because there are two bigger tournaments coming up,” Fariha said, as she expressed dissatisfaction in not making the top six.

Rebekah said of her first tournament experience: “I was pretty nervous, but I’m really happy that I had the honor to fence today because I got a general idea on how the rest of the girls fence.”

Senior foilist Eileen Shu finished in 17th place, making her last opener enjoyable. For her, the sense of camaraderie between her and her teammates gave her the confidence and strength she needed.

“I didn’t expect to move on to the semifinals. I guess I wasn’t that confident. But then Ms. Yan, Ms. Michlewitz, and the rest of the fencing team supported me and I didn’t feel alone anymore.”

Senior Margaret Jia, a veteran epeeist, gave insight as to how this year’s opener was different from ones in the past.

“This year was more intense because it was 50% elimination, meaning only 21 of the 42 girls moved on, and if you were just warming up in your first matches, it might cost you later on,” Margaret said. In the past, there have been multiple elimination rounds before the final six compete, and for some, that was a game changer.

For the first-time fencers at opener, this was a chance for them to meet fencers from other schools, and observe their different styles. Sophomore foilist Catherine Ng became less nervous as she realized that although opener was a competition, both coaches and fellow fencers were friendly.

Catherine said, “The coaches of the other teams were really nice, offering me advice and tips.”

Sophomore epeeist Erin Robinson expressed similar sentiments about the people she met that day.

“It was kind of different from what I expected. I expected everybody to be really mean and here to win, but they’re really not. They’re here to win, but they’re still really nice and friendly,” said Erin.

For some of these girls, it was less about the medals and more for the practice.

Sophomore foilist Yarim Lee said, “I hoped to get practice out of [the opener], and I did. For the upcoming season, I hope to learn from my mistakes and win more bouts.”

Sophomore epeeist Katie Wu added, “Now I know what to improve on for the season, and I’m really proud of all my teammates who made it to the semifinals and finals.”

With respect to the performance of her fencers, coach Katherine Yan expressed pride at how hard her fencers were working and how successful they were.

“The fencers exceeded my expectations. Our star Alanna continues to wow the crowd, and I’m hopeful for this season. They train hard every day and it’ll pay off. They have the dedication and commitment it takes to win,” said Ms. Yan.

The first home fencing match will be on April 8, against Francis Lewis at 4:30 P.M.