Fencing Team Enters Busy Season

Captains l-r: Harry Kibirige, Sean Conlon, and Nick Wurtz.
Captains l-r: Harry Kibirige, Sean Conlon, and Nick Wurtz.

Whitman started off their season with some tough competition facing Commack on Friday, December 7. The Boys squad dropped a close one 15-12 and the girls lost 22-5. The combined team will head to Hills East on Monday, December 10th for a 5 PM matchup and then back home in their South Gym on Wednesday, December 12th when they face off against Centereach at 6 PM.

Varsity coach Kathleen Kolakowski has reloaded this year as the Whitman fencing program continues to grow and find success. She has brought back past Whitman graduates Jeremy Allen and David Cheung to coach the boys team and has been able to grow the positive, collegial spirit that embodies the Whitman fencing program.

Before we introduce some of the team members, let’s take a moment for a short primer on fencing. There are three basic weapons used in the sport.

                  #1: The foil is a light sword formally used by nobility to train for duels. Points are scored with the tip of the blade and must land within the torso of the body. A foil fencer’s uniform includes a metallic vest called a lame, which covers the valid target area so a valid touch will register on the scoring machine.

                  #2: The epee (pronounced “EPP-pay”) is the descendant of the dueling sword, but it is heavier, with a larger guard to protect the hand. Touches are scored with the point of the blade on the entire body, imitating an actual duel.

                  #3: The saber is a modern version of the slashing cavalry sword. The sabre is a cutting weapon as well as a thrusting weapon, so both the edge and the tip of the blade score points. Simulating the cavalry rider on a horse, scoring in saber is done from the bend in the hips to the top of the head.

The object in a fencing competition is to score 15 points within three 3-minute periods. Fencing is fun to participate in and fun to watch.

The Walt Whitman men’s sabre team is anchored by Co-Captain Nick Wurtz. “Nick is a senior, and he has grown up learning from some of our best who have since graduated,” said Coach K. “He’s a fifth-year member and one of our most experienced, so he’s ready to go.” Also on men’s sabre is sophomore Ben Sakarin. “Ben has also benefited from learning from all those top guys that came before him,” said Coach K. “Ben’s been going to outside clubs and training hard, so he should be a strong force for us this year.”

The women’s epee team is especially deep this year, with senior team captains Lindsy Tortorice and Angela Acevedo leading the charge. Whitman’s strongest epee fencer may well be sophomore Alexandria Alpy.  Alpy traveled to California early this past summer to a national competition that improved her ranking. “Another strong force for us in epee is Sarah Goehring,” said Coach K. “Sarah was new to fencing last year and filled in when a teammate was injured, and she was a pure natural. This year she will help give us a really strong women’s epee squad.”

“Last year we graduated 10 guys, many of whom were our top men’s epee fencers,” said Coach K. “So while our experience in epee may be thin, we do have returning sophomore Thomas Ferrante.” Thomas also traveled to the national fencing event in California last summer to enhance his experience and ranking. “Tom fences for outside clubs and has a lot to offer, with really good experience for a sophomore.”

Women’s sabre features Isabel Sakarin, a team captain and sophomore, and someone truly dedicated to the art. “Isabel has continued to grow all the time as a fencer,” said Coach K. “She pursues her love of fencing outside of Whitman as well.” Sophomore Haley Gladitsch has been working hard and getting stronger, and it shows. Emily Ferrante, an eighth  grader at Stimson Middle School, is a starting varsity member for the Whitman team. “Emily has worked really hard and shown herself capable of handling the pressure of varsity fencing,” said Coach K.

Senior captain Sean Conlon leads Whitman men’s foil squad. “This could be a big season for Sean,” said Coach K.  Senior Harry Kibirige, who his coach says has always shown a natural ability for foil, will also anchor the foil squad. “Junior Mike Ruotolo has been involved in outside fencing as well and has shown great improvement since last season, so we’re hoping for him to do quite well,” said Coach K.

The women’s foil squad is anchored by senior captain Alex O’Toole who is coming off of a physically tough soccer season. “She is still as strong as ever,” said Coach K. “Alex did very well in our last scrimmage.” Also adding to a strong foil fencer squad is a pair of sophomores, Ellen Tricomi and Alexandra Klysa. “Our girls foil squad should be quite strong this year.”

“I want the kids to have fun, and I always want them to try their best in everything they do,” said Coach K.  “I want them to achieve their goals both individually and as a team, and that’s what I work for as a coach.”

There were 65 students who tried out for the team, and the final cut brought that number down to 50. Whitman starts off with some tough competition as they face Commack on Friday, December 7, at 6 PM. While the team to beat is always Ward Melville, other teams, like Brentwood and Huntington, are going to be tough competition this year. If you haven’t had the opportunity to watch fencing, you owe it to yourself to come down to Whitman’s South Gym and see this fast-paced and fascinating sport.