After months of intense practice and tough matches, the fencing season has ended, with the Cardinals raising their foils in victory.
Six Lowell fencers competed at the California High School All-State Invitational at San Francisco’s Galileo High School, on April 28, against 20 other fencers.
Lowell sent five female fencers to the event: sophomore Stefani Kahookele, senior girls’ captain Jayne Stewart, senior Rachael Ferguson, sophomore Jacqueline Woo and sophomore Monica Lee. They took second, fourth, seventh, eighth and 12th place respectively.
The boys’ team, on the other hand, only sent one boy: senior boys’ captain Alex Cheng, who has been held boys' varsity fencing champion for four years. “We were expecting more of the guys to make it into the top eight at All City and therefore qualify for All State, but unfortunately, the Lowell guys’ team ended up knocking each other out of the tournament in the direct elimination bouts,” Ferguson said.
Two other boys’ fencers — senior Walter Pan and sophomore Ofri Harlev — qualified but were out of town. “The girls did very well,” Cheng said. “I was the only boy there, though, because the others were at a Robotics Club competition.”
At the fencing All-City Finals on Saturday April 21, Lowell won every category of fencing. They also won boy and girls' league, plus the All City overall trophy. Cheng won his fourth consecutive boys’ individual championship, and Ferguson won the girls’ individual championship.
The Cardinals parried all of their competitors this spring, finishing with an 8-0 record. “It was a good season; we finished undefeated, just as planned,” coach Scott Cunningham said.
Four fencers — Cheng, Stewart, Ferguson and Pan — are graduating seniors, so the team plans to draw in more members next season. They currently have about 15 members, according to Cunningham.
Fencing requires a lot of specialized equipment, so most people can’t afford to have it as a hobby; hence the majority of students who join the team have little to no prior fencing experience. For example, a typical fencing starter kit costs about $150, according to the All-American Fencing Club. “We can’t have tryouts in fencing, because people can’t really practice, like in basketball or baseball, outside of school,” Cunningham said. “We have to make an investment in our players’ future.”
Many of the sophomore fencers are new to the team this semester. “It’s really fun being on the team,” sophomore fencer Saffhire Chan said. “The only experience I had before was from the Lowell fencing club during the fall semester.”
There is currently a strong contingent of sophomores and juniors on the team, which sets the Cardinals up to have an experienced team next season.
However, there are currently no freshmen on the team. “Not having freshmen doesn’t affect us now, but it might next year or the year after,” Cunningham said.
The fencing team’s success lies in their cooperation. “Sure, this is a solo sport, but we need each other to correct our mistakes and improve our skill,” sophomore Donna Wang said. “Team work helps us to succeed.”
There are three types of fencing, with minor differences in the type of weapon used and the way that matches are scored. Out of the three types of fencing — Épée, foil and sabre — the Lowell fencing team are foil fencers, as are most high school teams. This is also the most common form of the sport and uses the lightest weapon.
After warming up with games such as Sharks and Minnows or tag, the team practices hand and foot positions and movements, such as lunging and parrying. Fencers choose whether to fence electric or dry — electric is when the fencer is wearing an electronic vest used for scoring, and dry is without the vest. “This season we’ve been working on teaching new people how to fence, and laying out the foundations for next season,” Cunningham said. For the rest of the practice, the fencers are able to challenge each other and referee each other’s matches.
The team remains optimistic about their prospects for next spring. “I personally hope that we can continue to excel for years to come and that we do not break our winning streak,” junior Ellande Tang said. “I hope that the other members of our team can step up to the challenge and that we can all become better fencers. Finally, I hope that people will continue to join our team and that fencing can become a more appreciated sport.”