Sports Person of the Week
Flynn Succeeds in Several Endeavors at Guilford
Shayla Flynn is leading the Guilford girls’ fencing team as a saber competitor and a senior captain this winter. (Photo courtesy of Shayla Flynn )
To say that Shayla Flynn is a superb student-athlete would be an understatement. Shayla is a senior at Guilford High School who competes for the Indians’ fencing and crew programs, in addition to participating in a number of other activities at the school and in her community.
Shayla serves as vice president of the National Honor Society and is a member of the French Honor Society at Guilford. She’s also a local leader with the Pilgrim Fellowship during the summer. On top of that, Shayla plays the cello in two orchestra groups at the high school.
“We have quite a few kids like Shayla among our fencers. Our kids tend to be multi-cultured and multi-talented. Shayla is one of the best of them,” says boys’ and girls’ fencing Head Coach Kyle Mezzi. “Shayla taught herself to become an excellent fencer and, if you’re looking for the loudest kid yelling out encouragement to her fellow fencers, that’s Shayla.”
Shayla is primarily a saber fencer for Guilford. Last year, she helped the girls’ fencing team take first place at the Team State Championships for the fourth-consecutive season.
Shayla had been playing soccer for several years prior to arriving at the high school as a freshman. Fencing wasn’t in Shayla’s immediate path, but that changed quickly.
“My closer friends were fencers. They convinced me that it would be something I’d like,” Shayla says. “Boy, did I find out fast how much I loved it.”
Shayla also found out that fencing is a true test of mental and physical fortitude. As time has gone by, she’s developed a regiment that helps her succeed on the strip.
“It’s all about strategy. You have to prepare physically when you’re not fencing,” says Shayla. “The upper body and the lower body need to be strengthened. We have some very intensive, long physical workouts. We run because cardio fitness is vital, too.”
While she can fence foil and épée, Shayla’s favorite discipline is the saber sword. In saber, competitors are allowed to use the entire blade, and hits are recorded from the waist up, including the mask.
“When I first began doing it, I found it to be intimating,” Shayla says. “But the more you work at it, the better you get.”
Along with helping Guilford claim the overall state crown last season, Shayla also guided her saber squad to its team title. This year, Shayla is serving as one of the captains for the Indians.
“I think we do so well as a school because of the passion that everyone who competes has,” Shayla says. “We have a motto which is, ‘If you believe, you will achieve.’”
Guilford picked up where it left off from last year and has been putting a slew of victories in the books this season. The Indians are poised to go on another memorable postseason run, but Shayla knows that there is still plenty of room for growth.
“We’re constantly looking to improve,” says Shayla. “With the three disciplines, you have nine matches within every meet. In order to win each discipline, you have to get five wins. So, it may be a team sport, but it takes individual wins to lead up to team wins. You have to be as strong as your weakest link.”
Once the winter season ends, Shayla competes for the Guilford crew in the spring. Shayla is a strong rower who has a knack for getting the timing right.
“I’m not the one who sets the pace, but I’m the lead stroke,” Shayla says. “The other rowers match what I do.”
One of Shayla’s best friends on the fencing team is also her musical partner, fellow senior Ella Stanley, who plays the viola. Shayla and Stanley have formed a quartet. Shayla also plays chamber music and was one of the founders of the group as a junior.
“Music has opened up some worlds to me,” says Shayla. “It was another way to test myself, to step outside of my comfort zone.”
Shayla has plenty of colleges on her list for next fall. In the meantime, she’s planning on making the most of her final go-round at Guilford.
“I’m just enjoying my senior year with all its fullness,” Shayla says. “After that quiets down, I’ll make my decision.”