Hewlett's Lee captures fencing gold


Claudia Lee had a taste of March Madness recently, but she’s not a basketball player and her heroics came in February. The Hewlett High School sophomore pulled off multiple upsets on the way to winning the Nassau County fencing championship in Epee.

“It was a very unreal experience,” Lee said. “I just felt so grateful in the moment, especially since my team is considered to be the underdog team of Nassau County. Bringing home gold was unreal for myself and my team.”

She went about her improbable run by flipping the script from the start.

“I feel like I was doing things I wasn’t normally doing during practice; it was experimenting and trying to figure out the other opponent instead of really focusing on what’s going wrong [on my part],” Lee explained. “These things are never a sure thing, but all I can do is give it [my] best shot. [Fencing] rewards fast thinking and having to come up with strategy in your head, except you have to think two, three moves ahead.”

Said Hewlett coach Dierdre Chambers: “She's really an amazing athlete, great student and a super great kid who's worked really hard done a lot of good things at practice and at matches. Hard work pays off.”

Lee fought through Manhasset’s Sophia Xenophontos, besting that bout 15-13 in the quarterfinal round. In the semis, she went up against Aybriel Schantz from Great Neck North, winning by a razor thin margin at 15-14. With that context, her victory in the final looked like a landslide, a 15-8 decision over the defending champion, Remi Pai from Manhasset.

“We were all on the edge of our seats, literally,” Chamber said about watching Lee go on her championship run. “It was really suspenseful watching her go for a 15 points bout. Anxiety builds, she was cool as could be and did what she had to do in that final match.”

There was a method to the madness, as this wasn’t her first time in the show.

“Freshman year I missed the cut off by a few spots,” Lee explained. “Coming in, like my goal was to make, like, top eight and then I got to the semi-final and then the final and then I won.”

What’s shocking to some, is that she’s been training at Hewlett and from New York Fencing Academy for only about a year.

“She’s worked so hard as a freshman and a sophomore,” Chambers said about Lee’s work ethic and success.

Fencing isn’t the only extracurricular activity on Lee’s plate, but bringing home hardware made her consider zeroing in on this one, especially after voicing ambitions of pursuing collegiate fencing.

“I’m doing a lot of sports, music and [other] activities, so it made me think about it,” Lee said. “With the two more years I have left, I could really go for it and see where it takes me.”

She’d be following in family footsteps that way.

“My sister [Morgan Lee] fenced foil for years, she actually went to Princeton [for fencing],” she said. “She was really a true inspiration to me.”

To sum up the experience, Lee said it best: “bringing gold home was just incredible.”