There were many talented first-years on Harvard rosters this year, but none shined brighter than foil fencer Lauren Scruggs, who has seen success on the national and world stages.
Scruggs, who is just 19, has amassed four gold medals at Junior Championships, a first-place finish at the North American Cup National Championships, a second-place team finish at the NCAA National Championships, and second team All-America standing. She continues to add to this list of achievements through the hard work, perseverance, and dedication she has shown throughout her stellar rookie season.
Scruggs transitioned to collegiate fencing this past year, bringing much experience from the international competition to college. Scruggs was the youngest US fencer to win a gold medal at Junior Championships, competing in the U20 division at just 16-years-old in 2019.
This fall, Scruggs adjusted to working with a new coach and a new team — one that produced five All-Americans in its last season.
“This year was about adjusting to the balance of college fencing. I thought I had a good season in light of all that,” she said.
Scruggs was quick to note that her success this year could not have been possible without the support of her teammates and coaches.
“The upperclassmen really helped with the adjustment,” she said. “A lot of them had the same experience as I do on the national team. Hearing from them how to balance school really helped.”
Another contributor to the team’s success: women’s fencing head coach Daria Schneider, who won a U.S. Fencing national title in 2011 and won Ivy League Co-Coach of the Year with Cornell in 2018 before moving to Harvard prior to the 2021-22 season.
“[Schneider] does a lot to make sure everyone has their needs accounted for,” Scruggs said. “I can always go to her if I have a problem, which I really appreciate. She is very understanding with our personal lives and that we have other things going on outside of fencing. Overall, we have a coaching staff who really cares.”
The support and team culture has helped Scruggs become a better person and a better fencer, she said.
“Lauren is hugely inspirational. She is one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met, and I notice that she rarely complains or even discusses how hard she’s working— she does her job while also being a fun and positive presence on the team,” added teammate and first-year epee fencer Emily Vermeule on the impact Scruggs has had on the program.
Despite her youth, Scruggs carries plenty of experience to the international stage, managing her stress and nerves in the moment. Her previous bouts have taught her how to manage big moments at such a young age with confidence and fortitude.
“Learning how to manage through injury and fence with that has helped me this season,” she said. “I listen to a lot of music before I fence because it helps me get out of my head. I wouldn't say I am prone to a lot of stress during competition, but when I am, music really helps.”
Looking to the future, Scruggs hopes that she can take her junior success to the next level.
“I really want to improve on the senior level,” she said. “I want to continue to do better at those senior tournaments. It is one of my hopes going forward.”
Scruggs recently traveled to Dubai to compete in the Junior World Championships. In the United Arab Emirates, she earned her second gold medal after also winning in Toruń, Poland, in 2019. She has one more year of eligibility in the U20 class, and will hope to defend her title in 2023. Her performance in worldwide competition lands her in contention for the national team squad that will represent the United States in the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
The Queens, N.Y., native returns home this summer to strive toward that goal. She will fence under her previous youth coach, with another task to balance: her summer internship. Just as Scruggs took on the challenge of collegiate fencing, managing a job along with fencing is something a fencer of her caliber must take in stride.
“I will probably go in at least three times a week,” Scruggs said. “I will be training a lot to improve and take it into the next season, which helps a lot when I’m training with my coach.”
With three more years of college eligibility and her transition from the youth to senior within eyesight, Scruggs is taking it day by day.
— Staff writer Hannah Bebar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.