Cricket, pickleball, fencing, oh my: Madison athletes share passion for unique sports

Katrina Swan, Staff Writer

Madison High School is known for its competitive sports. However, some students do not have the opportunity to play their sport for their high school, and they face unique challenges with their sports. 

Jai Elhance (‘25) is a podcast and radio show host who discusses cricket games and interviews professional players. He gained interest in the sport after watching his first cricket game in 2015. Elhance played locally for a team, but has since found success in analysis. He commentated on all DC Hawks 2021 season home games, along with a few Morrissville Cardinals games. 

“One challenge is that there aren’t [cricket] facilities built,” Elhance said. “But, I do feel that is growing: we are seeing more stadiums, indoor facilities, better equipment.” 

Pickleball is another sport that has seen growth in recent years. Pickleball takes aspects from badminton, tennis and ping pong, according to the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA). Players use a paddle, similar to a ping-pong paddle, to hit the pickleball over the net. Points are scored only on the serve, and games are normally played to 11 points. The sport grew 21.3% from 2019 to 2020, according to the USAPA.

“Pickleball is known as an older person’s sport and there isn’t much youth, so it is hard to get respect from former tennis players that have 20 years of experience,” Zachary Gladstone (‘22) said. “I wish people knew that pickleball is for everyone and that there is recreational or social play and competitive play.”

Gladstone has been playing pickleball competitively for six months. His grandmother introduced the sport to him five years ago as a fun activity for them to do together. Now he plays four times a week along with drilling sessions and competes in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. On the one-to-five pickleball skill level scale, Gladstone is at 4.3. 

“Anyone can strive in the sport of pickleball; I have lost to a 14-year-old and 76-year-old before,” Gladstone said. “The game comes down to strategy, experience and quick decision-making.”

Fencing is also a sport familiar with strategy and quick decision making. Fencing is a combat sport where the objective is to hit your opponent’s target before they hit yours. The foil, one of the three weapons in fencing, is claimed to be the second fastest object at the Olympics behind the marksman’s bullet. All weapons differ in look, technique and target area. The equipment and skill that fencing requires might be why you will not see many public high school fencing teams in the United States. 

“I think it’s often easy to forget that fencing is considered a unique sport by everyone else,” Lauren Richardson (‘22) said. “I’ll find myself talking about fencing with friends and forget that they don’t know the difference between a parry six or eight, or that the competitions that all fencers seem to know aren’t that familiar to everyone else.”

Richardson has been fencing since she was 11, when she attended a fencing summer camp at Fencing Sports Academy. Her fencing club offers footwork and conditioning classes; two hours of drills and fencing; and mini competitions. Richardson enjoys the sense of camaraderie when training with her friends, even if it is an individual sport. 

“If I were to say anything to someone considering fencing, it would be to just go ahead and try it,” Richardson said. “It’s super fun, and even if you only end up going a few times, you’ll definitely enjoy yourself.”