Sports

Alumnae reunited as fencing coaches for Wagner College

2016 alumnae Olivia Wynn and Fatima Largaespada coached in Saturday’s Temple Open.

Fatima Largaespada frequently checked her inbox soon after she graduated from Temple as she tried to figure out her career plans.

She saw a few emails from John Moreau, the coach at the University of the Incarnate Word, and other coaches she knew with “Wagner College Head Coaching Job” in the subject line.

Largaespada, a former foil who made three NCAA championship meets from 2012-16, talked with her family and decided to call about the job at Wagner.

After a series of interviews, Largaespada became the first fencing coach in the history of the private college in New York City for the inaugural 2016-17 season. Largaespada didn’t have any assistant coaches last season. In August, Wagner hired two assistant coaches, including Largaespada’s friend and former teammate Olivia Wynn.

The two have been friends for six years, and they believe their relationship will help them be successful coaches. Their offices at Wagner are next door to each other.

“The year after I graduated from Temple, I really missed fencing,” said Wynn, who had a 99-39 record in foil and sabre bouts from 2012-16. “Fatima gave me a call one day about the open position and I was super excited to hop on board.”

“We aren’t afraid to tell one another if they are wrong,” Largaespada said. “We can be pushy towards each other, but we never get in arguments. I can’t remember a time we ever have.”

Fencing is a big part of Largaespada’s family life. Her grandfather Viterbo Simont owns a fencing club in Mexico, and her mother Georgina Simont has owned a club in San Antonio, Texas, since 1987.

“She has in her blood fencing DNA,” her mother wrote in an email. “She knows perfectly what to do, she knows this business, and she could be a great coach. She has lived a lot in fencing.”

Largaespada and Wynn still call their former coach, Nikki Franke, for advice almost every week, Franke said. Franke also wrote a letter of recommendation for Largaespada when she applied for the Seahawks’ coaching job.

Franke expects to hear from Wynn and Largaespada often when the season becomes more intense, she said.

Seahawks sophomore foil Karen Gutierrez (left) listens to coach Fatima Largaespada during Saturday’s Temple Open. | GENEVA HEFFERNAN / THE TEMPLE NEWS

“It is really weird seeing Fatima in a green jumpsuit,” Franke said, referring to Wagner’s team colors. “I like how invested she is into her program. I can see how much she cares. Fatima worked extremely hard while at Temple, so it does not surprise me seeing her work hard for Wagner.”

Franke saw Largaespada at last year’s Temple Open and saw her and Wynn at Saturday’s event at the Liacouras Center.

In the program’s first season, Largaespada and the Seahawks only had one fencer at the Temple Open. This year, Wagner sent seven.

With the Seahawks in just their second season, Largaespada has the challenge of jump-starting a fairly new fencing program. Her fencing background from her home in Mexico and learning from Franke at Temple has given her a “healthy” mix of coaching styles, she said.

“At Temple, practice would be set up and we would focus on one thing for that day,” Largaespada said. “In Mexico, we just trained. Experiencing those things helped me develop my practice and put me in a position to coach my fencers the best I can.”

Despite taking on coaching roles at a different school, Largaespada and Wynn still reflect on their Temple careers every day, Largaespada added.

“We share the same memories,” Wynn said. “You don’t get that type of relationship with a lot of people. We are eager to make more memories together here at Wagner.”

Michael Zingrone

can be reached at michael.zingrone@temple.edu
Or you can follow Michael on Twitter @mjzingrone
Follow The Temple News @TheTempleNews

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