• Student Experience
Fencing at 15

Established in 2009, the Meadowridge Fencing Club quickly became a student favourite. Now in its fifteenth year, thanks to the commitment of parents, students, teachers, and expert coaches, the club is still going strong as one of the largest clubs in Meadowridge history, and it shows no sign of slowing down.

Talk like a fencer

an initial offensive action made by extending the sword arm and continuously threatening the opponent’s target 

defensive action to deflect an opponent’s attack by opposing forte to opponent’s foible 

an offensive action following a successful parry of an attack 

Counter Riposte
a riposte following the successful parry of the opponent’s riposte or counter-riposte 

the offensive action made while avoiding, or closing the line against, an opponent’s attack 

a method of getting closer to an opponent with acceleration to make an attack while maintaining balance and making it possible for a rapid recovery 

On Guard Feint
threatening movement of the blade made with the intention of provoking a parry or similar response 

when both blades are in contact 

turning or ducking to remove the target area from its normal position, resulting in the non-valid target being substituted for the valid target 

En Garde! Prêts? Allez!
three command start when fencing, which means: Get in defensive position! Are you Ready? Go!

Club History 

A club that started with only one parent and a handful of volunteers has grown to be one of the largest at the school. Now in its fifteenth year, the Meadowridge Fencing Club sees sixty-some-odd students annually and has launched the competitive careers of many. 

The club coaches are former Olympians; Canadian, Bulgarian, and Korean National team members; and Fédération Internationale d’Escrime (FIE) hall of famers. When running, the club tournament was one of the largest youth fencing events around. Really, if you want to know what Meadowridge can do, look no further than the Fencing Club. And, if you want to know how, look no further than Mr. Gareth Mason and Ms. Connie Chow. 

The Meadowridge Fencing Club would not be what it is today if not for Mr. Gareth Mason. When he first approached the school about starting a club, Mr. Mason was already a board member and dedicated parent. Still, he had the will to do more. A successful and medaled fencer himself, Mr. Mason knew the impact and joy the sport brought to his own life – an experience he hoped to extend to the students at our school. Mr. Mason’s idea to start a fencing club had been met with support but also dilemma: with a full roster of teams and clubs already running, volunteers would be needed. The club could go ahead, but only if enough teachers and staff were able to help. Thankfully, Mr. Mason was able to secure four volunteers, and, in September 2009, the Meadowridge Fencing Club launched. 

Among the initial volunteers was Ms. Connie Chow. And while the Grade 4 teacher is today synonymous with the club, she didn’t know much about fencing back in 2009. Really, her involvement had been pure coincidence. Just weeks before the call for volunteers went out, Ms. Chow’s eldest son had expressed an interest in the then unknown-to-her sport. Figuring he would be sure to sign up for the club and that she’d end up at practices anyhow, Ms. Chow volunteered to help. Little did she know that this decision would shape the history of the club. 

As one of the more uncommon sports offered at Meadowridge, fencing might seem like an unexpected success. In reality, it had been a hit straightaway. In its first year, the club welcomed a full roster. The year after, registration doubled. At Meadowridge, the secret to the club’s unexpected success is not so secret at all. Mr. Mason and Ms. Chow have dedicated themselves to the club from the get-go. In the early years, Mr. Mason was not only the founder but also organizer, promoter, and sole coach. 

Though it was a small club with only a few volunteers, Mr. Mason was adamant about offering all three weapons (a logistical nightmare!) because he knew how important it was for students to try. Ms. Chow, meanwhile, handled just about everything else. She worked with the school administration, helped out at practices, and used her connections to find equipment and coaches. Over the years, the pair worked in tandem for many hours and set their sights higher every season. 

By year four, the club was fully established with a full roster, in-house equipment, world-class coaches, and strong competitors. Mr. Mason and Ms. Chow had much to celebrate but still had one more aim: a youth open tournament. 

“We had gone to many tournaments ourselves and our students were becoming more competitive, so we wanted to bring that to our school,” Ms. Chow explains of their motivation. 


BC Fencing Association Presidents’ Award Ms. Connie Chow

Winner of the 2022/23 BC Fencing Presidents’ Award—the highest sport volunteer recognition in BC—it is clear Ms. Connie Chow’s dedication and passion are qualities everyone can see.

Nominated by Meadowridge Director of Athletics Mr. Scott Spurgeon, Ms. Chow earned the top spot and was celebrated alongside fellow volunteers from across the province.

A Full School Support

The Meadowridge Fencing Club has benefited from the involvement of many teachers throughout the years. Ms. Nadine Sugden recently joined in for her thirteenth consecutive year of volunteerism and is one of the longest-standing volunteers on staff!

By opening it up to fencers from all over, they also wanted to give back to the community. It would be a significant undertaking, but the pair was up for the challenge. Mr. Mason worked with groups to promote the tournament, hire referees, and meet all the requirements of a sanctioned event. Ms. Chow took on the marketing and promotion and volunteer sign-up. She also designed the tournament medals and t-shirts that, little would she know, would become a “hot commodity” amongst competitors.

After many months of planning, their commitment came down to the last hour. It was Mr. Mason, along with Ms. Chow’s family and Mr. Spurgeon, who painstakingly taped down every single fencing piste over the course of many hours and ensured exact distance between each of them.

“I walked into the gymnasium, and they were all wearing volleyball pads on their knees,” Ms. Chow laughs. Even during the tournament, Mr. Mason and Ms. Chow—along with their families and friends—ran everything from the registration and concession to the scoring, medaling, and clean-up. Their efforts paid off, and the tournament was an immediate success. Over 150 student entries came that first year and even more in the years after. Over time, the tournament increased in registration, prestige, and ages (eventually, even opening up to senior fencers towards the end!). 

Fifteen years since its launch, the fencing club’s greatest achievement, according to Ms. Chow, is the fencers who have grown from the club and given back. Many fencers have gone on to compete nationally, internationally and on varsity teams all over. Even more of them have volunteered as coaches, helping younger students get into the sport. For these fencers-turned-coaches, their motivation stems from their own experience as young participants in the club. “In all these years, I’ve stayed in not because it’s a sport I personally do, but because I know that the kids value it,” Ms. Chow concludes.

Fencing and...

… applying to university
“Extracurricular activities can play a pivotal role in university applications, offering a holistic view of an applicant beyond their academic achievements. Participation in activities gives the opportunity for students to develop and showcase transferable skills. For example, fencing can showcase a student’s commitment, discipline, and passion. It requires not only physical prowess but also strategic thinking and perseverance. Admissions committees appreciate candidates who demonstrate a balance between academic excellence and a well-rounded personality. 

Involvement in extracurriculars like fencing not only highlights an individual’s ability to manage time effectively but also contributes to the diversity of the university community. More importantly, when talking about the extracurricular activities, students can highlight qualities like teamwork, leadership, and sportsmanship, which are invaluable attributes in both academic and real-world settings. Whether it is fencing, Model UN, or performing in the school’s musical, showcasing engagement in extracurricular activities can enhance a university application by presenting a multifaceted and accomplished candidate.”From Mrs. Brianna Just, Post-Secondary Counsellor 

“You build such a tight-knit community. I’m not someone who is very social or talks very much, but fencing helped me get to know more people who have the same interests. At Meadowridge, it’s also a chance to get to know some of the younger students.” Angela S., Grade 9

“Fencing has a unique community. When I was in Toronto, I saw a lot of people from Meadowridge at the tournaments. It’s cool to see people from home so far away, and all because of fencing!” Nathan Go ‘19

“Sportsmanlike conduct is important in fencing. Before you start a bout, you must salute the player and referee. When you finish, you salute again and shake each other’s hands.” Angela S., Grade 9

“Fencing is as much about respect as it is about competition. If you lose, it’s not so much a negative thing as it is respecting your opponent for the work they did.” David Guo ‘20

“Etiquette is an important part of the sport, from salutations and shaking hands to being respectful with your words.” Joshua L., Grade 11

Meadowridge Fencing coach Hristo Etropolski
was a member of the Bulgarian National Fencing Team, has twice competed at the Olympics, and has earned many medals at international tournaments and world cups. As a coach, his successes only continue. And though his reach is vast and his accolades are many, Hristo’s start at the sport began just like any Meadowridge student’s – with a curious fascination about this costumed and swords-filled sport. 

With time, this initial curiosity grew to become a lifelong passion and an undeniable talent. After a successful career, Hristo transitioned into coaching where he saw fencers win countless world cups and medals, rank internationally, and earn scholarships to prestigious schools. In 2013, he was honoured by the International Fencing Federation (FIE) and inducted into the International Fencing Federation Hall of Fame. 

One year after that, he joined Meadowridge School. 

Right away, the experienced coach saw four considerable strengths in the still new program: Mr. Gareth Mason, Theodora Runtova, Ms. Connie Chow, and Mr. Scott Spurgeon. “The coaches are important,” he shares, “[Ms. Chow and Mr. Spurgeon] make the fencing program feel like one big family. They’re the heart of the club.” 

Over the next eight years, coach Hristo, Ms. Chow, Mr. Spurgeon, and Mr. Mason grew the club in not only membership but also recognition and excellence. Together, the fencing team launched the Meadowridge Youth Open, a tournament that ran six years and grew steadily to become one of the largest tournaments in the lower mainland welcoming fencers from all across the province and even across the border. What’s more, the club now welcomes an average of fifty fencers each year, introducing students in Grades 4 through 12 to the unique sport of fencing. 

“There have been changes over the years,” Hristo now reflects, “but under the right people, what works has stayed the same. It’s a well-oiled machine.” Ms. Chow and Mr. Spurgeon (after 11 dedicated years, Mr. Gareth Mason retired from his fencing.