Rochester fencing teams bring home state championship wins
“This year, the whole team came together. Everyone worked super hard,” said Ingrid Olson of the Rochester Youth Fencers. “It was such an accomplishment to get first."
ROCHESTER — Therese Woerter is normally a quiet fencer.
That wasn’t the case Sunday, Feb. 26 at the 2023 Minnesota High School Team Championship at The Blake School in Hopkins.
The eighth grader’s anxiety built as she waited to fence. The anxiety presented itself some more as she began to fence.
“Once I started fencing, I was super loud, screaming half the time,” she said. “It was really funny, to be honest.”
The new approach for Woerter worked, as she and her Rochester Youth Fencers team secured the women’s foil title.
The championship was exciting for the team, made up of Woerter, eighth-grader Zora McLaurin, junior Ingrid Olson and senior captain Semini McLaurin. They'd finished third in the team competition the previous two years.
“Getting first was like 10 times better,” Semini McLaurin said.
Olson, who began fencing four-and-a-half years ago, was a reserve on the third-place team three years ago, watching and learning from older teammates as she watched from the side. She was a bigger part of last year’s team, which didn’t include Zora McLaurin or Woerter.
“This year, the whole team came together. Everyone worked super hard,” Olson said. “It was such an accomplishment to get first.
“I was definitely in disbelief (after the win) at first. I was thinking a little bit like, everything is finally just paying off, and it felt deserved. (I had) a lot of thankfulness and just appreciation for the rest of the team, for sure.”
The RYF team wasn’t the only Rochester fencing team to bring back a championship trophy from Hopkins.
The Southeast Minnesota Youth Enrichment League men’s foil team grabbed the title after an early exit from last year’s tournament.
This year also saw some drama ahead of the finals, but the team of Mateo Wilkins, Ethan Brewner, Jonathan Chen and reserve Murad Fadlia reached the goal that had evaded them in previous years.
“We added Jonathan to our team (last year) with a promise that we’re going to win the state championship,” Wilkins said. “It feels good to follow through on the promises. Now, if anyone wants to talk, we can just let them know that we won. We’re the best team in the state.”
Brewner said that, after a “rollercoaster of a day,” there was relief that the tournament was over.
“(The championship) was against the three best fencers in the state, and they had been beating us at all the previous lead-up tournaments,” he said. “To beat them at the one that actually mattered really felt good.”
Wilkins also won the individual men’s foil title, his second consecutive championship win. The first-place finish came after two losses in high school series tournaments ahead of state.
“He had a target (on his back),” YEL coach Kamau Wilkins said. “There was a lot of doubt that hadn’t been there before. Previous to that, it was more of a mission to get on top. Then you get there, and you lose a couple of times. There’s a target. People have been gunning for it.”
Despite the pressure, Wilkins performed with a 15-12 win in the finals. Still, he was more thrilled with the team title.
“I was more excited about the team one. Of course I wanted to win the individual one, but the biggest one that I wanted to win the most was the team one,” he said. “I felt confident about the individual one, then I won, I guess.”
His coach, and dad, agreed, saying a team title is a “better representation of how the entire organization is functioning.”
“As a coach, you take a little bit more pride in the idea that you’ve accomplished something in the sense of building a healthy team,” Kamau Wilkins said.