Fencing: Minnetonka’s Most Épée-c Sport

Scott Sorensen, Staff Writer

“These guys don’t get the credit they deserve,” lamented Tim O’Brien, assistant coach and team manager of the Minnetonka High School fencing team.

In 2018, MHS student Kamden O’Brien, ’22, pitched the club to his Southwest Christian Academy fencing coach Maria Benford. Benford agreed, bringing over thirty years of fencing experience and a two-decade-long coaching career to the newly-minted program.

Kamden O’Brien works alongside assistant coaches Tim O’Brien and Benford. Mondays and Wednesdays from 3:00-5:30, these three musketeers lead students through sword drills, open bouts and conditioning in the MHS Commons. There, the boys and girls teams train together despite competing separately. With 54 members and all three disciplines (foil, épée and sabre) practiced, Minnetonka’s team is the largest recognized fencing program in the state of Minnesota.

“Fencing is a very accessible sport and with training, tactics and techniques, [every athlete] can excel,” said Tim O’Brien.

The sport’s receptiveness to inexperienced athletes may contribute to its popularity, but the biggest draw, according to the fencers themselves, is the social life.

“We have a little community that allows everyone to be themselves and come out of their shells,” said Angelica Ginzburg, ‘22, Fencing Club captain. “We provide a safe space for anyone who wants to join.”

Ginzburg, who has struggled with shyness all her life, has found sanctuary in fencing that makes her feel truly at home being herself. She isn’t the only one, either. Building connections between students is one of the team’s greatest strengths.

Beyond the social aspect, the program emphasizes independent thinking, intuition and focus. Fencing is not only an athletic endeavor but also a huge mental challenge when athletes face down their opponents on the strip.

Many athletes are new to the sport, and coach Tim O’Brien raves about the team’s one-on-one coaching style and varied skill levels. While much of full-team training includes basic skill development for the large beginner population, MHS Fencing is no slouch of a program. In its first year, the girls team took third place overall at the SPA tournament, the highest-level competition in Minnesota; in 2021, the sabre division girls took home third.

This year, the team’s members will attend four tournaments, with additional individual-entry competitions open to more advanced fencers. Whether students are looking for an afternoon with friends or a contentious battle, fencing has them covered.

So how can interested students get involved?

“The best way to learn is to jump right into the sport,” said coach Tim O’Brien.

Fencing is always accepting new members, and it meets Mondays and Wednesdays from 3:00-5:30 in the MHS Commons. The club provides all necessary gear (protective gear and weapons), but athletes are welcome to bring their own. For more info, contact Coach Tim O’Brien via text at (651) 775-9803.