Sophomore epee plans to follow cousin’s path in Temple fencing

Zahrah Dinkins transferred to Temple after McKendree University cut its program.

Sophomore epee Zahrah Dinkins (left) and junior epee Camille Simmons practice on Wednesday at the Student Pavilion. | JEREMY ELVAS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

When McKendree University cut its fencing program, Zahrah Dinkins was looking for a more competitive place to fence.

The sophomore epee talked to her cousin, former Temple University epee Safa Ibrahim, about her decision to transfer out of McKendree, a Division II school in Illinois. Ibrahim is the Owls’ all-time wins leader. 

Soon after, Dinkins was “dead set” on transferring to Temple, motivated by the program’s nationally recognized reputation and her desire to carry on her cousin’s winning legacy, she said. 

“Hearing from Safa, I knew she truly enjoyed her time here,” Dinkins said. “I knew that the program was great and all of the coaches were pretty amazing. I knew that the program was really worth taking a part in.”

Coach Nikki Franke was familiar with Dinkins, who has fenced for 10 years, even before she transferred to Temple. Franke met Dinkins through Ibrahim when the two competed at national competitions last year.

“[Dinkins] is a very hard worker,” Franke said. “I’ve known her for a couple of years. I’ve seen her fence. I know her capabilities, as well as her potential. It’s exciting to have her here and train on a regular basis.”

This season, Dinkins has a 10-2 record. 

Before McKendree cut its program in April 2018 for financial reasons, Dinkins considered transferring at the end of her freshman year because she wasn’t getting enough out of its program.

Team practices at McKendree were not as rigorous as Temple’s practices, Dinkins said. Dinkins would work out by herself and occasionally have lessons with coaches outside of practice last year, which is not the case at Temple.

At Temple, Dinkins does everything with her teammates during and after practice, something she didn’t experience in her freshman year at McKendree. Dinkins and her new teammates hang out and have dinner with each other, she said. 

“My teammates are like my sisters,” Dinkins said. “I see them every day. Lately, I’ve been seeing them every weekend because of our collegiate meets. … Since we’re always seeing each other, I can really trust and rely on them.”

At McKendree, Dinkins had more free time. Here, the pre-med major spends more time training and usually only has extra time to dedicate to her academic work, she said. 

“I told [Dinkins] to find the balance,” Ibrahim said. “Balancing fencing and academics can be a struggle at times, especially for certain majors.” 

Dinkins wants to help the Owls’ improve heading toward the final events of the season, she said. Temple is ranked No. 7 in the Women’s Coaches Poll, but Dinkins thinks her team can move higher.

Temple will have an opportunity to move up in the poll at the Temple Invitational on Sunday at McGonigle Hall. Temple will face three ranked teams, No. 4 Penn State, No. 9 Penn and No. 10 Princeton University.

The Owls aim to hold their ranking but believe they could be ranked in the top-3. 

“I want to carry the same work ethic and a positive mindset when I train,” Dinkins said. “When I’m talking to my teammates, I want to continue to encourage myself and everyone around me to be successful as best as we can.”

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