Coach John Bruckner and Courtney Collins. Photos by Tom Gould
Certainly no one was more surprised than Courtney Collins to learn that she'd won the Nassau County Fencing Championship in Epee, as she'd not been favored to win. You might call her an underdog because she started the fencing season late this year as she was still in physical therapy for an ankle injury suffered in a Varsity Soccer game against Long Beach in September and reinjured in the championship soccer game vs. Friends Academy in November. She had to sit out the first five fencing meets, cutting it close to the mark in having enough bouts to even qualify for All-County should she do well.
However, as co-captain of the girls fencing team along with Sara Kenn, Courtney felt an obligation to attend not just the meets but every practice as well, in order to help out the other fencers on the team. Most of the Oyster Bay fencers could be considered underdogs because, unlike the majority of fencers from other schools, they do not generally take private lessons, belong to fencing clubs and compete all year. That's why Courtney gives so much credit to the OBHS fencing coaches, Head Coach John Bruckner, Assistant Coach Chris Hammond, and Assistant Coach Jolanda Zamecka (past Polish National Olympian); all of whom are OBHS alums who fenced for Oyster Bay.
There is only one division for fencing, so a large school with an active fencing team will compete against a small school or even individuals who join together as "the Independents" because their school does not offer fencing. Unlike other sports, there is no state level competition so fencers compete at counties for individual honors and as a team for the Long Island Championship after winning at counties.
The Oyster Bay Varsity Fencing team continues to persevere against the tough competition and this year at the Nassau County Individuals Championship Oyster Bay fencers placed 1st (Courtney Collins, epee), 2nd (Connor Kreye, foil), 3rd (Jack Greenfield, epee) and 4th (Tyler Collins, foil).
Overall season honors were as follows: All-Long Island (2 fencers from each county earn All-Long Island based on their season record) and All-County First team: Jack Greenfield, epee (32-6), and Sara Kenn, saber (30-5); All-County Second team: Courtney Collins, epee (28-9), Tyler Collins, foil (37-11), and Alex Gutterman, epee (20-16); and All-County Honorable Mention: Carolyn Cyrana, saber (25-21), Emily Eisenberg, foil (28-20), Connor Kreye, foil (33-16), and James Cifuni, saber (28-18). Foil captain Tyler Collins earned All-Long Island and All-County First team last year with a 26-3 record.
Plagued by health issues this year, Courtney was recovering from soccer injuries most of the fall and was forced to forfeit at the Nassau County Team Championship after suffering a hypoglycemic attack. She did not know she had the condition. Initially, she didn't even qualify for Individuals but after a fencer from Great Neck North dropped out, Courtney was next in line which makes her victory even more surprising and gratifying.
Fencing is often likened to playing chess at 100 miles per hour because it requires intense concentration, quick reflexes, and strategy. In December, after not doing as well as she would have liked in the holiday tournament at Brentwood, the following day Courtney qualified for the Junior Olympics in her first non-team tournament where she placed 1st in Cadets (U-17) and 3rd in Juniors (U-21) at Mission Fencing in Rocky Point, NY and earned her first national ranking.
Fencing can be a fickle sport where on any given day any fencer can beat another fencer even though the rankings would suggest otherwise. A competitor could fence a Junior Olympian and win.
What Courtney loves about being at Oyster Bay High School is the fact that you can try so many different things and be on several Varsity sports teams which is not the case for most fencers in other districts. The training required in other districts can be intense where practicing at fencing clubs and competing in tournaments on a regular basis throughout the year is expected. Courtney credits her older brother, Tyler, for getting her interested in fencing in the first place. She stunned her coaches at Individuals last year when she ended up in a 4-way tie for 1st place. She was so nervous competing in her first major tournament that she ended up placing 4th in the direct elimination round. She never expected to win the championship this year.
In addition to fencing, Courtney plays Varsity Soccer as sweeper (central defender), is on a Long Island Junior Soccer League (LIJSL) Division 1 Travel team, the "Blizzards," since she was in 4th grade. She was All-County for Varsity Badminton in singles last year. Courtney is also Vice President of the National Honor Society, Vice President of the International Thespian Honor Society, as well as being a member of the Science Honor Society and the Tri-M Music Honor Society. She plays bass clarinet in Wind Ensemble, she's been an active member of stage crew since 7th grade, is a Girl Scout in Troop 68, and volunteers as a tutor on a weekly basis for an OBHS seventh grader.