Zhou a Force on the Strip for Guilford Fencing
Fencing is a very meticulous sport that can be very demanding on the body and mind. It’s one that requires a lot of practice and precision to master the art and skill that takes place on the strip. Sophomore foil fencer Catherine Zhou has bought into this mindset and it’s helped her to be a successful and key contributor to the Guilford fencing team.
Catherine knew for a while that she wanted to participate in fencing, and it’s something she hasn’t looked back on since.
“I have been fencing for around five to six years. I remember my mom was talking to another mom and she put me into the sport because I was going to join my high school year. Previously Guilford had been the best at fencing in the state and I did not want to let my school down,” says Catherine. “I started at the Guilford fencing place, and that was the beginning of my fencing career. After my first few lessons, I fell in love with how fencing was not just about strength and speed but also about your brain too.”
Zhou does not play any other sports and focuses strictly on fencing. She notes that she does enjoy indulging in other fun sports-related activities in a less competitive nature.
The dedication Catherine puts into fencing day in and day out is something that can’t be matched. Recently, she was able to show off that hard work and commitment to the sport when she produced a first-place showing at the Team State Championships on March 11. Catherine placed first in the foil, along with her fellow foilers Ella Greenleaf (freshman), Taylor Smith (captain, senior), and Leila Ruser (senior).
“One of my most memorable meets this year was the state team meet. I loved the energy that was given and the work that people were putting in,” says Catherine. “I think this meet showcases how everyone has improved since the start of the season, and I love the team spirit that is shown.”
Grizzlies Head Coach Jeremy Goun has been coaching Catherine for two years and has seen a lot of success coming from her in that time.
“Catherine was undefeated this season and won the State Champion Individual title in Women’s Foil for the second year in a row,” says Goun.
Catherine’s Individual State Championship title helped her finish the season with an undefeated record and a win percentage of over 90%.
One thing that is crucial to succeeding on the fencing strip is being able to remain calm and block out any distractions. Goun sees this as a major strength of Catherine’s and something that has served her tremendously well, especially in bigger competitions.
“High School Team Championships was pretty exciting. There was just a lot of energy in the room,” says Goun. “All the championship teams and their fans yelling from the stands, it’s a high-pressure situation, and Cat performed flawlessly under pressure.”
As if her decorative statistics with the GHS fencing team aren’t enough, Catherine also spends the offseason fencing for another club. She dedicates five hours each day, between traveling and practicing, to this facility three times a week.
“I fence outside of Guilford at Tim Morehouse in New York. I have been going for around three to four years. I went there because I felt that I needed more intense training,” says Catherine. “During my COVID season, I started to fence competitively outside of the state, and I moved to Tim Morehouse after only one to two years of fencing.”
Between schoolwork, the Guilford fencing team, and being involved with Tim Morehouse, time management can be difficult and something Catherine found herself struggling with this winter.
“I faced one big challenge, which was managing my time. It is hard keeping up with my club and high school fencing, and academics. One thing I have been working on is trying to balance these during the winter,” says Catherine. “After COVID, time management was never my strong suit because I never learned how to manage my time during eighth and ninth grade, as my classes were not as hard. This year, it has been hard managing my AP and honor classes while maintaining my fencing skills.”
Not only do her impressive accolades stand out, but the positive attitude Catherine projects radiates to her teammates and has helped her to be a strong leader and role model for the underclassmen.
“She’s led her squad with her outstanding performance, but also her clapping and support from the bench,” says Goun. “She’s also quick with humor and positive reinforcement for her teammates.”
From a leadership standpoint, Catherine also focuses on improving everyone’s technical skills, offering support, and including everyone when she was teaching.
“I have always tried to improve everyone’s technical skills when it comes to fencing. An important part of that is decision-making, so I lead my team by pushing them to do better,” says Catherine. “I try to include everyone when I am teaching and want to help everyone when they need it, especially when they have questions and want some coaching help. I want to make sure that everyone is feeling good and confident when fencing because that is one of the most important things.”
On the strip elsewhere, Catherine has additionally been to the United States of America (USA) Nationals Fencing Tournament and has been a Junior Olympian. She has been to the Northern American Cup (NAC) for Junior Olympics, where she placed in the top 32 in Cadets and top 64 in Juniors, earning national points for each. At Junior Olympics, Catherine and her team earned third place overall. She will be returning to Nationals this summer and hopes that she will do even better this year.
As Catherine concludes her winter season with the Grizzlies, Goun mentions that he is looking forward to seeing Catherine continue to grow as a fencer, and hopes that she continues to lead the team. Catherine echoes this sentiment, hoping to remain a good mentor for others, especially novice fencers while challenging herself to continue to grow and succeed on a bigger scale.
“I am looking forward to teaching others on my team the techniques that I have gained during my summer and being able to talk to the people I adore. One of my big goals is to have more efficient time management during the fencing season because I am planning to attend my NACs,” says Catherine. “I also hope to get my B rating and to get top 16 in Nationals. Some other small goals are helping my team improve in fencing and polishing up their skills.”