When coach Nikki Franke needed an “emergency fencer,” she called Allison Pierok.
The junior foil joined the team in September when the Owls needed an extra foil to complete their roster, Franke said. Pierok is the former president of Temple University Fencing Club.
“I have no idea what kind of person I would be like without fencing,” Pierok said. “When I was presented with the chance to join the varsity team, I was eager to take advantage of it. Being able to travel to different parts of the country and see different quality fencers is something I love about this sport.”
Before Pierok joined the team, Franke and assistant coach Josh Herring — who has been the club team’s coach for five years — discussed two options for filling the last foil spot.
They could either hold a tryout that any woman enrolled at Temple could attend, or they could hold a tryout with athletes from the club team. Temple has only had to add a fencer from the club team to the Division I team “once or twice” before this season, said Franke, who is in her 46th season.
“I don’t want to downplay this, but it was a very easy process,” Herring said. “Only a few club fencers signed up, and right away we knew Allison would be the one making the team. She was easily one of the better fencers I have seen during my time at the club.”
While Pierok studied at Lakota East High School in the suburbs of Cincinnati, Cleveland State University and Ohio State University recruited her to fence for their teams, she said.
Pierok sought to fence at the Division I level straight out of high school. She graduated Lakota East in three years and spent a year studying in Japan after considering traveling overseas or going straight to college.
She didn’t fence much while abroad, and colleges stopped contacting her while she was there, Pierok said. At the time, however, she felt it would benefit her to have more free time at school.
Pierok said she started to regret not taking the chance to fence in college out of high school during her sophomore year at Temple. When Franke offered her the chance to join the team, Pierok jumped on it.
“It was a great opportunity when they asked, so I said, ‘Why not?’” Pierok said. “This was my second chance to fence in college. Being recruited out of high school, I feel like I may have missed out on a great opportunity.”
Now that she is a Division I fencer, Pierok has days where she wakes up at 6 a.m. and doesn’t return home until 11 p.m. She is taking 18 credit hours this semester. She also works as a host at the Temple Performing Arts Center and in the Kornberg School of Dentistry’s development department, where she tries to get alumni to make donations and helps plan events.
Pierok hadn’t fenced in eight months before she joined the team and had to get used to weight lifting three times per week on top of practicing, attending classes and working, she said.
“I’ve definitely missed the free time,” Pierok said. “My whole life, I have been busy fencing. But these last three years I wasn’t fencing seriously gave me free time to focus on my career and relax. I do feel overwhelmed at times, but I just take it one day at a time.”
“This whole situation was a fluke,” Franke said. “She already had her schedule made, but it worked out perfectly with our program. All the stars had to align for this to happen, and they sure did.”
This season will be Pierok’s only one with the program. She plans to graduate in Fall 2018 with degrees in political science and global studies. Pierok also plans to study abroad in Léon, France, in her final semester.
But even though Pierok will only be on the team for a short time, she still wants to make contributions throughout the year.
Pierok finished 25th in foil at the Penn State Garret Open on Nov. 4, and she placed 14th out of 62 foils at the Temple Open on Oct. 28 to start her Division I career.
Pierok competed at the Temple Open in 2015 and 2016 while on the club team. She placed 39th in her first year and 19th in 2016.
“I feel like I have a little bit to prove,” Pierok said. “I want to show that I am still a quality fencer, and I want to see how I do now that I have the opportunity to be on a Division I program with a great coach.”