The Sacred Heart University (SHU) Division 1 fencing team is getting an upgrade at the coaching position following a chaotic period without one.
On Jan. 11, legendary SHU fencing alumni Khristopher White was hired to be the new coach of the program.
“Our old head coach was suspended just before the start of our season, so the season has been a bit of a challenge,” said Sophie Witek, captain of the women’s fencing team. “We are very grateful for Coach White joining our team and finally bringing back some stability.”
Without a head coach for the majority of the season the hiring process became hectic. However, White hopes that he can get the Pioneers back on a winning track as the last time SHU fencing won the Northeast Conference (NEC) was back in 2015, when White was still on the team. As a player, White helped SHU win four NEC titles in a row.
“Coach White is a very experienced coach and cares a lot about our team’s success,” said Domenic Bartolo, captain of the men’s team. “I think it’s awesome that he thinks he can bring the team back to its previous success as one of the top collegiate fencing programs in the country.”
Before joining the coaching staff at SHU, White coached at Grace Church High School in Manhattan from 2015-2023. At Grace Church he transformed their fencing program from an after school activity to a competitive team.
While at Grace Church he dealt with challenges that developed and tested his coaching ability. Most of the students were used to fencing as a recreational program, but were not committed to the idea of a team. It took a year or two, but through setting expectations and hard work, the program saw a new life as a competitive team.
“Fencing does not always leave you with time for many hobbies outside of it,” said White. “I mostly enjoyed spending time with my teammates who were pretty much my family and giving back to the community that raised me.”
White was introduced to the sport of fencing through the Peter Westbrook Foundation (PWF). The goal of this foundation is to introduce underprivileged kids to fencing and give them opportunities to excel in the sport through community and mentorship.
“PWF was my introduction to fencing,” said White. “My mother not only saw Peter on Oprah one day, but she also had a family friend whose son was in the program and through him she enrolled me and I loved it from the first day.”
Both teams will be back in action on Feb. 15 for the Columbia Invitational.
Sacred Heart Athletics contributed to this article.