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01/11/2023 05:28 PM

Baker Shines Both on and Off the Strip as Senior Captain for Morgan Fencing

Oliver Baker has proven to be a leader on the fencing strip for the Morgan Huskies as a senior captain this season. Photo courtesy of Oliver Baker

The Morgan Huskies co-ed fencing team started their season on Dec. 1, with one notable fencer being in the last season of his high school career.

Senior captain Oliver Baker has been a member of the Huskies fencing team for three years, and competes as an épée fencer. He was inspired to start playing by his older brother, who graduated from the Morgan School in 2020.

“My older brother was originally the one who started fencing,” says Oliver. “I was watching him when I was younger and that made me want to do it.”

The Huskies are coached by Jim Barnett, who has been with the team for 12 years. Barnett talks about how Oliver leads not only with his discipline, but also his personality and leadership style among the rest of the team.

“He sets a really good example by working hard in practice and in his lessons, and he doesn’t take time off; he is very committed,” says Coach Barnett. “The other great thing about him is that he is honest, respectful, and cares for others. He will talk to us about things that are going on with the team, things that we need to be aware of, and what we look for in a fencer.”

Oliver talks about how he can not only lead his specific discipline, but also the rest of the team as well, with help from the other captains.

“I lead by example: explain a certain move or action, then demonstrate how to do it as well as guide them through it,” says Oliver. “All of the captains take turns giving a little speech to inspire the younger people.”

Before the start of this current season, Oliver joined the Shoreline Fencers Club in Branford, where he competes weekly on top of competing with the Huskies.

“I was ready to compete at a higher level,” says Oliver. “I wanted to challenge myself and see what I was capable of.”

The Huskies compete in the Central Connecticut Fencing Conference (CCFC) and do not compete against other non-conference schools during their regular season. During the postseason and state championships, however, it is open to all schools that have a fencing program in Connecticut.

Oliver was also ranked on the national team this past season, with a ranking of E. He is the defending state champion in épée, and his attitude and hard work were certainly major factors in that feat.

Coach Barnett talks more about Oliver’s honesty, alluding to the fact that not only is he very skilled on the strip, but also has a lot of integrity.

“Last year in the state championships in his final bout, he hit the floor, it was so close that the referee thought it hit the other person’s foot,” says Coach Barnett. “He stopped the bout and admitted that he hit the floor and not the person.”

During the state championship, after Oliver had corrected his fault, he won by a final score of 15-13. His record for the regular 2021-2022 season was 54-14, and in the state championships he went 5-1 in the seeding round, being ranked at number ten. Oliver went undefeated in the direct elimination round, with a record of 5-0, during the state open individual championships, to win the title against Brian Girardi from Hand High School.

Coach Barnett talks about how Oliver can definitely defend his state championship title this year if he maintains certain disciplines and is open to instruction.

“He’s going to need to stay focused, continually develop over the season, and peak at the right time,” says Coach Barnett. “He is very focused, very driven and I think that as long as he keeps a level head and listens to what the coaches have to say so we can help guide him, I’d like to see him win back-to-back championships.”

Oliver has been a very accomplished fencer in his high school career, and had the opportunity to qualify for the Junior Olympics.

“I attempted to qualify for Junior Olympics, and I was just short,” says Oliver. “I am hoping to qualify next year.”

Oliver is also a member of the tennis team at Morgan High School, however, his main focus is fencing, where he looks to enjoy his last season.

“I play tennis in the spring, and I played soccer, but I stopped that a few years ago,” says Oliver. “I just want to take it easy and enjoy my last season on the team. I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself and end up failing because I am over complicating things.”

The Huskies are a large co-ed team with about 40 fencers. Oliver looks to bring the team closer together outside of practice.

“I try to make myself more approachable so that the younger players can ask me or someone else for advice,” says Oliver. “We are planning some team dinners outside of practice so we can connect outside of a competitive environment.”

Oliver ended his junior year with earning First Team All-Conference, and was also a part of the First Team Academic All-Conference. This past fall, he also completed his Eagle scout project for the town of Clinton, where he built a pergola at the Food For All Garden.

With every sport, there is always a rival opponent that each team faces, however, for Oliver, that is a different story.

“My toughest opponent is myself because you can lose to anyone on any given day,” says Oliver. “You just have to get in that zone to compete. When I feel like I have a good mentality, I know I can beat anyone.”