Elkin High School junior Matthew Schumak, sophomore Lindsey Shinkle and freshmen Drake Bogart and Dakota Dudley-Doss are a Buckin’ Elks team of four fencers who have proven they can back up their swagger in the sport statewide.
They seem to do it in an individual and team style that at first comes across almost casually disarming until one spends more time with them.
The group who finished second in the state high school fencing championships this year and first last year, as if on cue, becomes engaging and intense once the subject turns to fencing and a noticeable change in atmosphere and intensity level becomes immediately present around them.
Though the team lost to Chapel Hill High School in the state competition this year, it was only by one point, they finished as state runner-up and came in as defending champions beating Chapel Hill the previous year.
When all was said and done the freshmen, sophomore and junior team from a 1A school nearly upset the mostly senior 3A Chapel Hill team again.
As they stood together in front of the “E” insignia at the top of steps in front of the Elkin High School building, they noted the importance to keeping a certain amount of team chutzpah, and camaraderie being often the small fish in the large ponds of fencing. They nodded at each other knowingly when they discussed how internal jest and competition had made them better. The older Schumak and Shinkle who each won the state individual championships acknowledged their approval of Bogart’s and Dudley-Doss’s persistent efforts to keep them on guard in the sport.
In fact, this group’s small size has knit it closer and encourages the members to fight and compete harder against the bigger schools with larger rosters.
They believe that formula has made the difference in taking top wins over sometimes formidable teams, they said.
They remarked with pride how they they wear Elkin Blue and Gold as their colors to meet competitors, who usually wear white. They said they believe the color scheme works to their advantage.
In fact, it soon became obvious this small winning team of four would use any strategical advantage it could possibly think of to meet its often larger teams of competitors and find a way to win.
Though they have proven to be achievers at engagement in the sport, it seems they are also effective at engagement in the area of academics and conversation.
Each pointed out that their favorite elements involved in the sport of fencing is its strategic and academic elements.
Schumak reminded fencing was often called a game of physical chess. Interestingly, the two boys on the team, Schumak and Bogart, both said their favorite subject is math. Both girls, Shinkle and Dudley-Doss, declared their favorite subject as English.
As the group of young fencers continued to discuss fencing, sports in general and life, what became crystal clear is that the foursome are unique individuals who are brave and unafraid of failure by being willing to take a chance in a non-traditional sport. The call for the lone four has paid off with more than wins under the belt but friendship and an air of “I can overcome adversity” and “meet challenges” type of attitude.
They reminded that the necessary closeness of team when going against larger schools around the state has taught them how their hard work and perseverance pays off for winning in life and sports.
Individual State Champion Schumak said just being eldest on the team won’t cut it, but putting quality time and practice into the sport is what gives the edge. The other team members said they have a respect for Schumak’s ability and all agreed they were in the sport for the long haul.
Schumak and Shinkle said they intend to continue to push their younger counterparts and both Bogart and Dudley-Doss agreed they were up for doing what it takes to keep pushing the Elkin fencing team on into the future. Dudley-Doss said it is her hope that one day scholarships will open up for those like her and teammates who choose to take a chance and pursue fencing.
Younger teammates Dudley-Doss and Bogart admitted how good it felt every now and then to get in a point against their older teammates but admitted with a smile it was often tough to do, especially against Schumak, and Shinkle agreed with them on that also.
Dudley-Doss is in the concert band and is a student of karate and recently won a tournament and placed in the top of a few others. She plays trombone. Bogart is in the marching band and also plays trombone. He plays outside linebacker in football and on the shooting team.
State Champion Shinkle, who has won several titles, is on the Elkin soccer team and said she loves both sports, but lights up when defending her title in fencing is mentioned.
Schumak plays tennis for Elkin High School. He started early with soccer and played on a traveling team for years out of Yadkinville. In the fourth grade, he discovered fencing with Coach Walter Triplette and Competition Arms, the business of Triplette’s. After around a year of practice, Shumak started going to tournaments under the United States Fencing Association (USFA) jurisdiction all over the United States.
Schumak has qualified to go to Nationals for four years.
In 2012, he fenced in Baltimore at the Junior Olympic championships, wearing the blue and gold Elkin uniform. At the Junior Olympics, in the Cadet division (under 17) he finished 128 out of 241 fencers, better than any other fencer in North Carolina.
Schumak is the only recent Elkin fencer to compete nationally.
Tanya Chilton may be reached at 336-835-1513 or on Twitter @TanyaTDC.