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Senior captain Kathleen DeMaio made a big impact in the North Haven fencing program by helping the younger athletes on the sabre team progress throughout the season. (Photo courtesy of Kathleen DeMaio )
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Kathleen DeMaio recently completed a nice career with the fencing program at North Haven High School, where she’s been a member of the girls’ saber team for the past three seasons. This winter, Kathleen led the Indians as one of their senior captains and was presented with the Sportsmanship Award for her efforts.
Kathleen had no experience in fencing prior to high school, but she worked hard to progress in a consistent contributor for North Haven.
“When I first started, I didn’t know what I was doing at all. The varsity saber squad only was only three seniors, and they needed people, so I decided to give that a shot,” Kathleen says. “It was really scary because they were pretty aggressive and fast. I didn’t know a thing about it, but I stuck with it, and I love it.”
Kathleen discovered that she likes the complex nature of fencing. She embraces the challenge of having to think quickly and then take fast action on the fly.
“It’s not only physically challenging, but mentally, as well. I like how you have to have a plan for what you want to do before each touch and then, if it doesn’t work, you need to switch it up and try something else,” says Kathleen. “Quick thinking is needed in a short amount of time, because there are only a few seconds between each touch, so it doesn’t allow much time for decision making. You have to be observant and be able to adjust quickly.”
Head Coach Robert Dickens says that Kathleen excelled when it came to the mental chess game in fencing. As the recent season went on, Kathleen developed a knack to strike with unpredictable counterattacks.
“Kathleen is better at the tricks than the really fast stuff. She tends to gravitate towards the traps, where she convinces her opponents to attack and miss, so she can go for the counter,” says Dickens. “I spend a lot of time trying to get her to go faster, but she gets more mileage out of the sneaky stuff.”
Unfortunately, Kathleen was sidelined for a few weeks during her senior year. However, that didn’t stop her from being a leader who helped the younger fencers on the club get better.
“The way our practices were set up, coach pulls us for lessons, and then we work with our individual squads,” Kathleen says. “Since there were only four of us saber, it was beneficial, because we had more individualized help for each other. We figure out what we want to work on and do more situation drills and work from there.”
Kathleen says the previous senior captains routinely helped her improve her technique when she first joined the team. Kathleen is glad to give back now that she’s the one holding the leadership role.
“I really liked how the captains were always willing to help and give constructive criticism or feedback on what I needed help with,” says Kathleen. “I wanted to be that for underclassmen and use what I learned from my previous captains to try to help them like they did for me.”
North Haven turned in some solid performances at both the varsity and JV levels during the recent State Championship meets. Kathleen feels proud that she got to cap off her high school fencing career on a positive note.
“We did a lot better than last year, and I’m really proud of how we did at states,” Kathleen says. “I always try to keep an upbeat and positive attitude at practice and meets. I was really happy people noticed.”
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