Oak Knoll’s 2022 Fencing Team Solidifies Place in School History
Oak Knoll School’s 13-member fencing team closed out their winter season recently, but not before reaching several impressive milestones for the program.
For the first time in the school’s history, three students from the same season have qualified for the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Fencing Championships.
Team co-captain Lauren Pacicco ’22 (Foil) was the school’s first-ever fencer to reach 100 wins for the fencing program while Pacicco, Katie Nguyen ’23 (Epee) and team co-captain Abigail Whittall ’22 (Sabre), became the first-ever OKS fencing students to qualify for the Individual New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) Fencing Championships. Pacicco also finished 16th in the state in the NJSIAA Individual Fencing Championship.
In the New Jersey Interscholastic Fencing Association Prep Championships, Oak Knoll’s fencing team ranked second and their Sabre Squad including Abigail Whittall ’22, team co-captain Paula Sefia ’22, Vanessa Brum ’23 and Vida Connolly ’25, finished second.
OKS students Riley McCabe ’22 (Epee), Lauren Pacicco ’22, Paula Sefia ’22, Vanessa Brum ’23 and Abigail Whittall ’22 all qualified for the individual rounds with Whittall finishing third, Sefia and Pacicco finishing sixth while Brum and McCabe (a first-year senior) finished 8th.
In the NJSIAA District 4 Fencing Tournament, Whittall and Pacicco earned third place, Nguyen earned fourth and the Sabre Squad earned third place.
At the Montclair Invitational Frosh/Soph Tournament held on February 6, 2022, Vida Connolly ’25 (Sabre) earned a gold medal for first place while Amelia Pace ’25 (Foil) came in 6th place overall.
Oak Knoll’s final fencing roster included 13 fencers split into 3 weapon groups:
- Epee – Katie Nguyen ’23 of Watchung, Riley McCabe ’22 of Madison, Ava Bourneuf ’23 of Kinnelon and Anna Topping ’25 of Bedminster
- Foil – Lauren Pacicco ’22 of North Caldwell, Emily Abreu ’23 of Newark, Amelia Pace ’25 of Morristown, Clara O’Mara ’23 of Basking Ridge and Micheala Castano ’25 of Essex Fells
- Sabre – Abigail Whittall ’22 of Short Hills, Paula Sefia ’22 of Newark, Vanessa Brum ’23 of Hillside and Vida Connolly ’25 of South Orange.
Fencing Coach Lincoln Lawrence said that working with Oak Knoll’s fencing athletes is an absolute joy because they are respectful, hardworking, and intelligent.
“Fencing is so different from any other sport,” said Lawrence. “While you are a part of a team, when you’re out there on the fencing strip all alone, it’s one on one. It’s a sport that forces you to think if you wish to be successful. That’s why one of the nicknames for fencing is ‘physical chess.’ The beauty of that aspect is that a smarter fencer can beat a more athletic fencer 9 times out of 10. It’s not only the strongest and fastest that has a chance, but also the one with the greater understanding of the sport that has the true advantage.”
Oak Knoll’s Athletic Director Kelly Childs said that the fencing team is fortunate to have Coach Lawrence leading their charge.
“Not only is he a tremendous teacher of the sport, but he is a consummate professional and such an optimistic coach,” said Childs. “Lincoln is always willing to go the extra mile to help develop student athletes, and his positive energy is contagious.
“Fencing continues to be a sport at Oak Knoll that attracts so many girls who have never experienced anything like it. The girls create such a strong bond that enables them to compete at the highest level as individuals and as a team. This senior class has elevated the level of competition and commitment and we are very thankful for their leadership and dedication to the program,” Childs said.