Fencing dominates at conference tournament

Interal improvement yields top 3 finishes for both men’s and women’s teams

New Trier’s fencing season came to a powerful close as both the women’s and men’s teams finished in the top 3 at the Great Lakes Conference Championship at Adlai Stevenson High School on Feb. 1.

The women’s team rode first place finishes by their epee and sabre team and a 2nd place individual sabre finish by junior Grace Jeon to the women’s conference title; and the men’s team took home third place overall behind third place finishes from their sabre and foil teams.

Since this tournament marks the end of an entire season, many fencers on the team felt as though they were pitted against athletes that employed incredibly tough strategies.

“They had good off-the-line strategies, they were great with bladework, and parried a lot during the matchups,” Jeon admitted.

“I think we’re all strong fencers on our own, and I don’t think we have much of an advantage because all schools bring their A-game when it comes to tournaments like these.”

Senior and sabre team captain Alex Nagel has been fencing for three years and believed his personality led him to choose sabre as his discipline.

He experienced a lot of ups and downs alongside his team this season, but felt confident entering the tournament.

“I think that sabres’ greatest achievement this season was when two of our fencers took top four at the Catholic Memorial Invitational,” Nagel recounts.

“Even though I don’t feel like we had any major advantages going into this tournament, I still feel like we’re one of the better teams here, and we’ll win big.”

Thomas Criswell, a senior and the current captain of Men’s epee didn’t have an individual memory to call a favorite, but rather something more important for a captain to see in their team: improvement.

“The real benefit of this season was just everyone improving this year even though we haven’t blown anyone out of the water,” said Criswell. “I’m hoping to leave epee better than I found it, and we’ve got some great epee fencers that are climbing the ranks.”

In contrast, sophomore Men’s foil fencer Ty Burnett, who finished eighth in the men’s individual foil, had a favorite season memory to associate with the team’s improvement this season.

“I’d say my favorite moment was last week when we got third in the Great Lakes conference, and our dual meet record was a whopping 15-1,” said Burnett. “But our greatest achievement is without a doubt working together as a unit.”

Of course, none of the fencers would get to where they are now without a mentor figure pushing them forward, making the presence of head coach Colby Vargas that much more valuable.

Vargas, like Nagel, felt optimistic about both the chances of both the men’s and women’s teams entering the conference tournament.

“This is a very tough tournament with tough fencers, but I know we have a shot at it,” said Vargas. “Especially since the women’s team has won several buildup championship matches prior to this.”

With plenty of achievements this season and a championship filled with milestones, the future is bright for New Trier’s Fencing Team.