Chapter Ten: Winter Wonderland

Winter vacation practices, which I've sadly neglected to cover before now, were always everyone's favorite time of the season. First, most of the less dedicated people tended not to show up. Second, it was vacation, so all we did was electrically fence for hours on end. Back in the old days, it wasn't uncommon to get there at 10 AM and not leave until 3 PM or so…sometimes we'd even order in pizza during practice and take a break in the middle. Third, all the alumni who were home from college would come down and help out. Alex Kobak, Brhet Hohwald…it was like they had never left. Hell, some alumni who had graduated before I even joined the team--Steven Liss and Jason Weiss, most notably--were still stopping by. After a few years, I knew them just about as well as I knew everyone else. Hell, Steven still stops by even today… ten years since he graduated.

Most of the alumnus didn't fence regularly after high school, so it was always gratifying to finally be able to beat the rusty old codgers at their old game. In all seriousness, though, I'd learn more from working with them in two weeks than I would during the entire rest of the season. The ones who came back were the ones who really cared, the ones who would take you aside and work with you until you did things the right way…not because they had to, but because they were still loyal to the team and the people on it. Being an alumni now, I find that it's just as gratifying to come back and help as it was to be helped, if not more so.

The alums also helped me become a good director, something that the team was sorely lacking. I had gotten a copy of the USFA rulebook, and was working really hard to become knowledgeable at it. Coach's knowledge of the actual rules was spotty at times, and we had lost quite a few points because our fencers were improperly trained in both right-of-way and general fencing rules, and I was determined to correct both those inadequacies or die trying. It also opened my eyes to just how incredibly bad some of the local directors were. Tanya Adamovich, in particular, was notorious for practically directing with her eyes closed. Her typical reconstruction of the fencing phrase (telling everyone what happened) would go something like this: "Well, you come from here, you come from here. You stop here, you hit his blade here. You do this sort of spinny action, and you do this whirly thing. You advance, you retreat, and then you hit him here and you hit him here. I don't know, no touch awarded."

The rest of the season passed by relatively uneventfully, as we knew we didn't have a snowball's chance in hell of being a serious contender. In fact, the highlight of the second half of the year was the invention of the "HAH-VAHD" chant by yours truly. Jung had been accepted to Harvard, so each time he got up to fence, the entire varsity lineup would scream at the top of their lungs:

"H-A-R-with a V, V-A-R-with a D, HAH-VAHD, HAH-VAHD, YEAH!"

The mortified look on his face the first time we did it--against new rivals Garden City, no less--was worth at least a thousand words.

Anyway, before we knew it the season was over. Jordan and I resurrected a tradition by bringing back the Milky Way Awards, something that had been done years ago and Brhet & Nirav had brought back for the first time the year before. We brought in a whole bag of mini-Milky Ways on the last practice, and gave them out to individuals who had earned distinction on the team. The first few were serious--best foil fencer, best JV epee fencer, etc., but they quickly turned humorous--Most Mysterious, worst sense of humor, Most Absent, Lost the Most Epee Screws, and so on. It was a good way to end the season and relieved some of the stress everyone always got right before the counties.

We finished 3rd at the counties for the 2nd year in a row, with Jung placing 4th in the individuals. I went 3-2 in the team round, barely failing to qualify for the individual finals (for the second year in a row) by two measly indicator touches. Jeff Godoy, who went 5-0 in the team round, found that he had a serious stamina problem and absolutely fell apart in the individuals. It really was heartbreaking, because we all took it for granted that he was going to walk away with the gold with no trouble at all.

In other news, George Pavlou's father (Pavlou being an independent fencer from Massapequa) had to be escorted from the building after the director ruled the final touch in the individual finals against his son, giving Hewlett's Jon Tiompkin (currently one of the top ranked foil fencers in U.S., who managed to get the last foil spot for the 2000 Olympics) the victory. He was so mad he started cursing in Russian and threatening the life of the director who made the call, practically frothing at the mouth. For the record, the director was correct.

Up to RimRod's Fencing Autobiography
Back to Chapter Nine: Humilations, Punishments, and Changes in Formation
Forward to Chapter Eleven: Journeyman

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