PRINCETON: Sabre is weapon of choice

Hun’s Washington excels in third sport

By Justin Feil, Assistant Sports Editor
   At just a shade over 5-feet, there was only one weapon for Vivi Washington when she took up fencing.
   It wasn’t epee or foil.
   ”I haven’t grown since my freshman year,” said Washington, a senior at The Hun School. “I was pretty much sabre the whole way.
   ”For sabre, it’s more about speed and reflexes,” she added. “It helps me out in lacrosse as well. Being a goalie, you need reflexes as well.”
   Washington is a three-sport standout for Hun. Field hockey was an easy choice. The Ewing resident had played it in eighth grade. She was planning on running track in the spring, but was drawn to something she hadn’t played before, lacrosse. She started out as a field player, but switched into a goalie and started last year for the Raiders varsity.
   Fencing, too, was something entirely new to her as a freshman. Her winter sport, however, is different than Washington’s other loves. On the fencing strip, it is just 1-on-1 with her opponent.
   ”It’s all learning with me, how to work my body, how to work with myself,” Washington said. “Whereas in field hockey, it’s with a team and learning how to work with another player. And as a goalie, it’s learning how to command my players. Fencing is more of an individual sport, which is different from anything I played. Even growing up I was always on team sports.”
   Washington, however, is a vital part of the fencing team. She is a captain of the Raiders and the sabre weapons leader. Fellow seniors Annam Saminathan leads the epee team and Cimaron Sharon is the foil leader. Saminathan was 3-0 and Washington and Sharon were each 2-1 in a 15-12 loss to Newark Academy last week.
   ”Valencia is the only four-year fencer in sabre,” said Hun coach Rey Gonzalez, whose team returns to action Monday at Voorhees. “She’s doing a great job.”
   The Raiders are inexperienced overall this season, but showing improvement. The girls are still looking for their first win of the season, while the boys picked up their first win, 16-11, over St. Benedict’s last Friday. It was their first win over the Grey Bees in program history. Darrell Washington — no relation to Vivi — was 3-0 in sabre, Peng Chen was 3-0 in sabre for the first time in his career, Bion Urubshurow went 3-0 in foil for the first time and Ryan Megaro was unbeaten in two bouts at epee.
   ”We have good strong captains,” Gonzalez said. “I’m encouraged. Both teams need to work a lot on things. I also feel that we can surprise people at the end. I think they’re interested in working. They get down on themselves a little bit, but they’re really hard working. I really like them. They have a good work ethic. They’re nice.
   ”They’re working hard and they’re willing to work. That’s the most important thing that a coach can ask. If you’re willing to work, you can do something with them. I think it’s just going to take a little time. Maybe by states.”
   Washington is trying to do her part as the sabre leader. It took her a little bit to adjust to a bigger role with the Raiders.
   ”I didn’t think I’d be voted captain,” she said. “It’s not that I’m not captain material, but I like learning. Having to lead now instead, that’s a lot different. I’m teaching people how to fence my style, but at the same time, trying to help them create their own style.”
   After a year developing her own style during her freshman campaign, Washington began to develop as a fencer under Gonzalez’s tutelage. He had her fence more often against boys in practice to bring her along quicker.
   ”Guys hit harder than girls,” Washington said. “I have the welts to prove it. It helps my aggression. At least on my team, the guys are more aggressive than the girls. It helps, and I still fence the girls too.”
   Fencing more aggressive competition has helped her improve. Paying a little closer attention to how she is leading and what she is teaching has helped Washington as well this season. It’s a unique reward to her new role.
   ”Individually,” she said, “this is one my best seasons so far. It’s only the beginning of the season, but I’ve only lost two bouts. For me, it’s been a good individual year, and I think that comes with helping my team. It seems like when I’m teaching them, I’m teaching myself the whole new ropes. I’m actually learning for myself, not just for the team.”
   Washington is enjoying her final season of fencing. She may compete at the club level in college. It will be hard for her to stop playing the three sports she has excelled at in her time at Hun. She has found new challenges in each.
   ”I’m definitely glad I picked all the sports I did,” Washington said. “I could have been just as happy with another sport, but right now I’m happy with all the sports I play. I’m glad I tried something new.”
   So is the Hun fencing team.