One of the most memorable moments of the 2015 season came at the VC Fencing Challenge, where the athletic department and both teams took the time to honor their graduating seniors. The women said their goodbyes and thank yous to a graduating class of five: foilists Anveshi Guha and Janelle Washington, sabre fencers Kathleen Konno and Anastasia Stevens and épeéist Megan Lewis. Stevens and Konno served as captains for coach Bruce Gillman in the 2015 season, contributing leadership both on and off the strip. The men only bid farewell to two seniors: foilist Tre Artis and épeéist Roberto Maiocco.
These seven athletes have had three seasons’ worth of exposure to the fencing world and athletic community at Vassar and are all the wiser for it. Athletics have been part of their education. “The most important thing I have learned from the team is that even if you do your best, you can do even better when there are people encouraging you every step of the way,” said Konno, “It is my personal goal in my senior year to make sure that the underclassmen get to experience the support that I had while improving these past few years.” Konno focuses on how she can help younger students learn the lessons fencing has taught her, but Lewis has found much more personal growth, saying, “I’m a pretty quiet person, but I’ve filled a couple leadership roles on the team in the last two years. I thought that kind of thing would be difficult for me, but I learned that I can fill a leadership role comfortably under the right circumstances.”
Each lesson learned came with hard work. Konno explains what she might have done differently if she were able to start over, “I would have started as a sabre fencer from day one. I transitioned from foil to sabre fencing in the middle of my freshman season, and it was a great decision that renewed my passion for the sport.” In a time fraught with her own goodbyes to her teammates, Lewis looks back on her time spent with seniors graduated in years past, “I’d spend more time each year with the class that was about to graduate. I miss a lot of the fencing alums, some more than I thought I would.”
Both captains have given much thought to the way their team has impacted their experience at Vassar. “My favorite part of my athletic experience has been the opportunity to grow and bond with my teammates,” said Konno, “Being a team is not only competing together, but learning to appreciate each other and spend time as a group.” Lewis found that it was not only emotionally helpful to have a support group in her team, but they also helped her build her skills. “I love that the fencers here have very mixed backgrounds. At practice, I can be very challenged by some fencers who have been coached for years, and I can also spend time helping newer fencers grow into very challenging opponents,” she said.
Both captains have been appreciative of Vassar’s athletic department. “Over the last few seasons, I’ve been excited to see the growth of Vassar athletics as an increasingly important contribution to campus culture,” stated Konno. Lewis added, “I’ve found athletics to be [extremely supportive] of its athletes as individuals as well as its team. All of the coaches, sports medicine staff and communications staff took the time to look after my individual needs.”
Konno emphasized commitment on and off the strip. “Our coach encourages us to give our best both in our bouts and in our classes. We always are sure to be respectful to our opponents, and I believe our team has gained a positive reputation due to that emphasis on sportsmanship.” Or maybe just the food perks. “Vassar athletics has the best food,” said Lewis, “Every time we go to a tournament, we have by far the best spread.”
However, the memories are not all good. Athletes often battle stress and fatigue as they try to balance all of their commitments. “The most challenging part of being a collegiate athlete is the time management,” explained Konno, “It is extremely hard to balance multiple clubs, classes and a job on top of a busy competition schedule. It has required a lot of trade-offs, but the result is very rewarding.” Lewis has found similar struggles in her experience, saying, “It can be tough to find time to get everything done, especially with tournaments every weekend. Balancing sports and academics and everything else is stressful a lot of the time but worth it.”