Although the Bowdoin Fencing Club may fly under the radar on campus, practicing late at night in Sargent Gym and carpooling to tournaments, the group has proven this fall that it can be competitive in regional competition.
This year, the club has the assistance of a coach for the first time: Eric Ritter, an instructor from the Down East School of Fencing.
Earlier this fall, the clubs' veterans posted impressive results in a Portland tournament. Experienced fencer John de Villier '14 posted the best results for Bowdoin, finishing second overall.
Junior captains Alex Edison and Jason Kwong, along with PJ Lariviere '13, also placed in the top half of the 23-competitor field. While they were pleased with their results, the clubs' leaders are most excited about the enthusiasm of the team's many rookies.
"It's fun to have newcomers come to tournaments to see what it's like," said de Villier. "We had a fourth fencer come along just to watch and support, and just exposing yourself to it is a really good experience."
The team practices three times a week, year-round, and the most experienced fencers participate in several tournaments throughout the year. Practices usually include 10 to 15 members.
Competition is divided along the lines of three weapons: foil, sabre and épée. Most of the fencers compete in épée because it is the least challenging, with the entire body as a target and fewer restrictions on how to score points. Veterans, however, usually compete with the foil.
In tournaments, competitors are split into pools of eight and then seeded based on results within each pool. In the direct elimination rounds, fencers work their way up the rankings.
"To win, you have to go all the way up the tournament bracket," said de Villier. "To keep focus that intensely for so long is exhausting."
In addition to the new coach, the club has also received funding this year for equipment, which is expensive enough that it has often prevented interested athletes from signing up.
De Villier said that the fencing team has been in existence in its present form for five or six years, but that there used to be an earlier incarnation of the team.
Fencing, he said, "Used to be required for all students to take as freshmen. I'm not sure when or why the original club died, but it was resurrected recently as the club we have now."