The 2018 Senior Perspectives is the 13th in a series of annual collections. Senior captains and representatives of teams at Harvard have been invited to contribute viewpoints based on personal experience from both their senior seasons and full varsity careers at Harvard.
Mackenzie Lawrence, Women's Fencing
Hometown: Leawood, Kan.
House Affiliation: Mather
I have been able to reflect a lot on my time here at Harvard in this last year. I have made unforgettable friendships, been exposed to profound classes and subjects that have fed my academic curiosity and have been involved in countless inspiring extracurricular and summer experiences. However, as I look behind me, I know without a doubt that the single most important part of my experience here has been being a member and senior co-captain of the Harvard Fencing Team.
I came into Harvard as a walk-on. I was certainly not new to the fencing world and already knew a few members of the team here, but I was nervous. I was nervous about how well I would do as a walk-on alongside so many amazingly talented recruited fencers, but then we started practices.
One of the first days of practice my freshmen year, we went across the river to run sprints at the stadium. Never having done them, I was a little anxious, but I knew that I would just push myself as hard as I could. Suddenly, my coach said start, and as I began sprinting, I heard someone shouting my name. And then people were shouting the names of my teammates to the left of me and the names of my teammates to the right of me. The half of the team that was waiting at the bottom of the steps for the first group of sprinters was cheering us on. I could not believe it. After being in the sport for 10/11 years, I had never experienced support from a teammate like this. Fencing is an individual sport. Before college, I had traveled to national competitions with clubmates and to international world cups with teams of girls from the US. At the end of the day though, the focus had always been on one’s self. For some colleges, that is even the mindset still. That day at the stadium was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I realized that I was now a part of a family that wanted me to be my best and was going to support me all the way. It was incredible to feel that support and that love as I pounded up those steps. My teammates helped make me into the fencer (and person) I became in college. I never would have thought that I would end up qualifying for and competing in NCAA Championships all four years of my time here. My team pushed me that day and has pushed me to be my best every day since.
It's called ubuntu: I can’t be all I can be unless you are all you can be. The proverb has been part of HFT for years and has had the most profound impact on my growth here at Harvard. Our team relies on this concept because our men and women know that we each cannot be our best without helping our teammates be their best. Being our best has also never stopped in the fencing room though. My teammates inspire one another on and off the strip. To me, HFT members are an exact representation of what student-athlete should mean. Not only do we push each other to be the best athletes we can be, but we support each other academically, professionally, and in extracurricular activities. On a small, co-ed team like Harvard’s, ubuntu has created a deep bond of love and family that I truly believe is one of a kind. This belief system has not only given me a family but has also taught me teamwork, discipline, self-confidence, sacrifice, and hard work.
In this last year as a captain, I believe the concept has given me those skills now more than ever. Especially as the only senior girl, I feel like so many members of the team are my sisters and brothers who I just hope can all be their best selves. Over my four years with Harvard Fencing (and particularly in this last year) I learned so much about myself and I will take and use these skills wherever I go and know that I will always be part of HFT.