Fencers’ roots stretch coast to coast

The team has athletes from 10 different states.

Freshman epee Camille Simmons and her fellow freshman fencers decided to use the Broad Street Line to see the football team’s home opener against Army West Point on Sept. 2. With a lack of experience using SEPTA, Simmons and her teammates got off at the wrong stop before eventually arriving at Lincoln Financial Field.

“I feel like it’s stuff when you grow up in the city that you just learn,” Simmons said. “But when you don’t grow up in the city, you kind of just have to learn eventually.”

Simmons is from Bellaire, Texas, a suburb outside of Houston. Last semester, she said she was intimidated by Broad Street and the skyscrapers that look down on Philadelphia. Using SEPTA to get around the city was also something new for Simmons, who said she and her family drove everywhere in Texas.

Some of the Owls have ties to the Northeast, but a good chunk of the team comes from places in the western part of the country. None of Temple’s fencers are from Pennsylvania.

Coach Nikki Franke said she didn’t intentionally recruit fencers from outside the Keystone State, but she tells her team to embrace the team’s diversity and different cultures. She said the connections she made during her career, which includes competing in the 1976 and 1980 Olympics, helps her recruit nationwide.

“Mostly the girls come from fencing clubs as opposed to schools, and so there aren’t that many clubs in the area,” Franke said. “And of course, lots of athletes, they want to go away to school, [which is] also another reason why we don’t get that many Pennsylvania girls, but it’s nothing purposeful. We’ve had fencers from Pennsylvania in the past, just nothing currently.”

The food in Philadelphia has also been much different for Simmons compared to the barbecue and Tex-Mex in her home state. Just like residents of the Philadelphia area take pride in their cheesesteaks, Simmons won’t even try a Tex-Mex restaurant outside of Texas.

Freshman sabre Malia Hee, a Vancouver, Washington native, is also getting adjusted to the food in Philadelphia.

Hee misses Ox, an Argentinian-style steakhouse in Portland, Oregon, but she said after being at Temple for a semester, she’s starting to try more food trucks on Main Campus.

“I’ve gone to a couple,” Hee said. “I went to Burger Tank, that was really good. I’ve also been to Chop Chop as well. There’s also two Korean food trucks around here and I’ve gone to both of those. They were pretty good.”

Hee also visited Reading Terminal Market last semester and was intrigued by the variety of food. She said that they don’t have markets like that in Washington.   

Once the fencing season is over, Hee hopes to explore more of Philadelphia.

“I think that they haven’t had a chance to explore the city as much as I hope they do this coming semester as they get more settled into their daily routine,” Franke said. “They have a semester under their belt, so now they kind of know what to expect. So hopefully they’ll explore the city a little bit more and get to see some of the really great things about Philadelphia.”

Tom Ignudo can be reached at thomas.ignudo@temple.edu or on Twitter @Ignudo5.

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