Sitting down with D1 fencing commit Megan Hillyer: The art of fencing, all in the family and committing to Sacred Heart

Jordynn Blackwell, Managing Director

Imagine stepping into a dark, empty arena. In front of you is your faceless opponent pointing their glistening silver sword, waiting for you to accept their challenge. The stage is set and the suspense is high. Your goal: to hit your opponent and walk away with the point. 

 

This is the eventful life of Scotch Plains-Fanwood senior athlete and fencer Megan Hillyer. 

 

The seventeen-year-old started the sport at the age of thirteen where she was influenced by her older brother, who she considers to be her role model in the sport. 

 

“I was at a tournament with my brother to see him fence,” Hillyer said in a recent sit-down interview. “His coach at the time knew that I was a lefty, which gives you an advantage in fencing. Afterward, he bought me a bunch of equipment and gear. Because of that, I was like, ‘why not give fencing a shot?’”

 

Though she didn’t start fencing at an earlier age, she believes fencing is better to start later in life rather than earlier. 

 

“[Fencing] was kind of complicated to learn,” Hillyer said. “So I first tried it when I was ten and then I didn’t compete until I was thirteen which I believe is better to do. The reason why it’s better for you to start when you’re older rather than younger is that you become more of an unpredictable fencer because you weren’t as trained for so long.”

Growing up, I always wanted to compete at the college level, and seeing my brother experience compete  just made me want it even more so I’m really happy and I feel a big weight has just risen off my shoulders.”

— Megan Hillyer

If you’ve ever been a student-athlete, you would know that it’s not easy to manage a sport and school. Hillyer trains daily alongside her coach, Yakov Danilenko, to perfect her art of fencing, ranging from strength training to private lessons and to even fencing one-on-one, a practice called open bouting.

 

“Me and my coach work on fine-tunings and stuff like that. I will do open bouting, which I do with my club. You’re able to go up to someone and fence, which is great because there’s no restriction,” Hillyer said.

 

As Hillyer wraps up her club and high school career, she is excited to move onto the next chapter as a collegiate fencer at Sacred Heart University. For most athletes, representing her sport at the college level is a difficult feat and simply a dream becoming reality. But what Hillyer is excited about most is to give love to a sport that she feels is not appreciated enough.

 

“Honestly, it’s really cool,” Hillyer said. “Growing up, I always wanted to compete at the college level, and seeing my brother experience compete  just made me want it even more so I’m really happy and I feel a big weight has just risen off my shoulders.”