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The Paw Print

The Paw Print

Fencers stab at greatness

Jennifer Godwin-Minto

The fencing team has seen a successful start to their winter season, with both the boys and girls varsity teams currently holding a record of 2-0 after their tournament on Saturday, Jan. 13 against La Jolla Country Day and Cathedral Catholic High School.

Junior Matthew Bristing commented, “It was the first team competition of the year where we faced other high schools and we were super excited to compete as a team representing Poly.”

The competition came down to the wire; both varsity teams faced a tough situation where each fencer needed to win their final bout to ensure a Poly victory. But the Panthers triumphed in the end, finishing off Cathedrial 5-4.

The second part of the tournament, against La Jolla Country Day, ended in equal success, with the varsity boys winning 5-4 and girls winning 8-1. Overall, the team walked away with four bronze medals: one each for junior Lyla Pak and senior Natasha Llanto-Kharbanova and two for junior Max Herman.

However, their wins and medals are not the only hallmark of the team. Despite fencing being an individual sport with a diverse range of grades and ages, Poly’s players and coaches emphasized the importance of their chemistry and camaraderie, highlighting the strong bond within the team.

“I think the part of the fencing team that is most unique is the level of support and unity within our team,” junior Max Ismagilov said. “Generally speaking, people do their own things in individual sports, but I don’t see that in our fencing team.”

Team captain junior Emily Yoong agreed, noting the positive environment inside and outside of practice. “Even though it’s a very individual sport, the team always creates a happy and welcoming environment. Whether it’s something like baking banana bread for a tournament or bringing pom-poms to cheer each other on, my teammates always manage to make things more fun.”

While head coach Eric Holmgren also touched on the positive atmosphere, he acknowledged the struggle of having a young team with such a range of experience in the sport. “The strength of the program at Poly is the feeling of teamwork and camaraderie that is fostered by the coaches,” he said. “This year we have many new participants on the team. The challenge has been in bringing them up to speed in time for the competitions.”

In that light, the SoCal Scholastic Fencing League tournament last Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 21-22, proved a difficult fight. “We are expecting intense competition – over one-third of our competitors are ranked,” explained Llanto-Kharbanova prior to the tournament. Of the Poly fencers, only Herman is ranked, having earned the United States Fencing Association’s “E ranking.”

Despite the strong pool, the girls varsity team performed well: senior Milla Chavez went 3-2 in the pool round to place 14th (out of 37), while Llanto-Kharbanova advanced to the third round of direct eliminations. On the boys varsity side, Ismagilov went 3-3 in the pool round, ending up as the 29th place seed out of 56, while Herman and junior Benjamin Lee advanced to the second round of direct elimination with commanding wins.

“We’ve had a phenomenal year and hope to finish off the season with continued success,” said captain Pak.

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Katie Walsh, Staff Writer
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