In 2015, when 10-year-old Lola Possick won a national fencing championship, it was simply a novelty, a first-time occurrence, a reason to be extremely proud.
“When I first started, I managed to shoot through and win a title,” Possick said. “It was nice to know that my hard work could pay off and have something to see what my hard work could do.”
Turn the clock ahead four years and Possick is winning national championships again, but this time, the competition was much tougher and far more intense.
Last week, Possick won the USA Fencing National Championship in Columbus, Ohio, at the Columbus Convention Center.
It marked the fourth time Possick won a national title, having claimed the 10-year-old and under title in 2015 and 2016 and the 12-year-old and under title in 2018.
This year, Possick won in a different age bracket, the 14-and-under (Y14 according to USA Fencing) in the saber weapon division.
But this time, the road to the national crown was far more difficult. Possick had to compete 18 times in a span of five days and had to remain in Columbus for a total of 10 days. That’s because the field in the Y14 saber division consisted of 202 girls.
“I fenced a lot,” Possick said. “The difference was the amount of girls competing. When I first won, there were only about 50 or 60 girls. Now there were 202. With a lot of people, I had to fence a lot longer.”
So some of those competition days started at around 3 p.m. and ended around 10:30 p.m. That’s a lot of time to spend in a convention center.
“I just like to relax in between bouts,” Possick said. “I didn’t want to over exert myself. I wanted to save myself for the competition. I had to wait a really long time between bouts. It was tough.”
When the tournament started, Possick was placed in a seven-girl division, with the girls all going up against each other once.
Possick was undefeated in the round robin action and moved on to the next round, which was a single elimination round.
“There were 128 fencers in that division,” Possick said. “I had to wait about an hour or so in between bouts. I would fence, then sit down and relax. I had about seven bouts in a span of seven hours.”
To bide her time, Possick watched several of her teammates from the Advanced Fencing and Fitness Academy (AFFA) of Garwood compete. She also turned on her IPod and listened to a wide variety of music.
“I like the Beatles,” Possick said. “I like pop music and rap. I like Eminem. I listen to Tyler the Creator in hip hop. I also have some 21 Pilots and Post Malone.”
After the second round, the time between bouts shortened considerably.
“I had about 10 minutes between bouts,” Possick said. “I had to save my energy and then get in the zone. I was used to it. It’s what I was trained to do.”
Possick traveled to AFFA four times a week.
“I’d leave right after school and go right there,” Possick said. “I had to make it work.”
There was another advantage that helped Possick this time around – namely Mother Nature. Over the past year, Possick grew about six inches, reaching 5-foot-9.
“I like being taller,” Possick said. “My reach is a lot better. My arms are longer, so it’s easier to score. My legs are longer, so it’s better for me to attack. For me, being taller was a big advantage.”
Possick defeated Xinyan Chen of Marietta, Georgia, by a score of 15-10 to advance out of the field of 128. In the field of 64 and 32 respectively, Possick was devastating with her defense, surrendering just five points in one round and nine in the other.
In the quarterfinals, Possick defeated Siobhan Sullivan of Tigard, Oregon, by a score of 15-11.
In the semifinals, Possick handled Chloe Williams of Atlanta with a 15-12 final score, moving on to the championship round, where Possick faced a very familiar foe.
Madison Four-Garcia is from North Bergen. Four-Garcia was once a teammate of Possick’s and the two went to the Mustard Seed School in Hoboken together.
Imagine two girls from the same county, two former teammates and classmates, facing each other for a national crown.
“I’ve had to do that a couple of times before,” Possick said about going up against Four-Garcia. “I have a lot of friends in that bracket. Most of those fencers are very good. I know most all of them.”
Possick had a slim lead at the break, leading 8-7, but then Possick outpointed Four-Garcia, 7-2, in the second period to win the national title by a final score of 15-9.
Winning the national title in a different, more competitive age bracket meant a lot to Possick.
“It was tougher,” Possick said. “Things got harder and faster. A lot of the girls are older and competed in this category before. This was definitely one of the harder nationals that I competed in. There were a lot of good fencers there, a lot of experienced fencers.”
Possick just turned 14 a few weeks ago, so she was definitely facing competition that was a year older than her.
“It feels a lot better winning this year,” Possick said. “This was great.”
Possick will now head to Kent Place in Summit to begin her high school days, but she’s unsure of whether she will compete in fencing for her new school, which offers high school fencing. Possick thinks that practicing and competing with her high school team might interfere with her training on the national and international level.
Next week, Possick heads to Poland for 12 days to participate in an international training camp with some of the best fencers in the world.
“There will be a lot of international fencers there,” said Possick, who will be in Poland from July 22 through August 4. “It will be a good experience for me.”
And on the grander scale, Possick is shooting for possibly a spot on the United States Olympic team in 2024, when the Olympics are held in Paris.
“That would be amazing,” Possick said. “But it’s going to be tough.”
So is winning four national championships.
“It really does feel great,” Possick said. “It shows that all my hard work is paying off. It’s nice to know that others will look at me and see how many times I’ve won. I now have to maintain the level to get where I am again.”
The drive for five begins with training in September.