In Rhode Island last weekend, three fencers competed in the fencing club’s first tournament of the year. Casey Edmonds-Estes ’22 finished in the top eight, beating two experienced fencers and earning a rank E.
In fencing, each competitor begins their career labelled U, meaning they are an unranked fencer. As they attend tournaments and defeat opponents, the fencer can gain points to be rated A through E, with A being the best. At tournaments, these rankings are used to decide brackets and the level of experience of each fencer.
With a range of experienced members, the club has stood out on campus for its unique traditions and sense of community.
The club’s leadership style is different than other teams on campus. The club’s seniors pick captains from the other three class years. This year, they chose Utku Ferah ’21 and Michael Harris ’20. This tradition allows underclassmen to become leaders earlier in their fencing careers.
“We give this to them early on to give them the sense of what it’s like to lead a club,” said former captain Ben Ratner ’19.
The club practices two of the three types of disciplines available in fencing tournaments: the foil and épée. In foil, the tip of the saber must hit an opponent’s torso to be counted as a point, while in épée, the tip can hit the opponent on any part of his body.
Typical tournaments consist of fencers competing in random pools and then being seeded into groups based on how well they perform. A big part of the club’s success is limiting its size to ensure each member is learning and able to perform in tournaments.
“The club is at its strongest when it’s a small, close knit community,” said Ratner. “We are kind of in a sweet spot around 10-15 where we can accommodate everyone’s needs and feel like we know each other well and have that communal spirit.”
Community is a big part of the club’s identity. Long van rides give the members a chance to become closer, sharing stories and jokes.
“I would have to say the road trips to the tournaments are the best part,” Ratner said. “We pile in a van early in the morning, stop for bagels and drive across New England.”
According to the club’s social captain, Anthony Coleman ’21, fencing may be a club that students are not familiar with on campus; therefore, its members are attempting to demonstrate the club’s work to a larger audience in as many ways as possible.
“We want to do a lot more things that people can see,” said Coleman, “because a lot of people don’t know what fencing is and didn’t know that we have a team.”
If you look around campus on a warm day, you may see the club practicing on the museum steps. Demonstrating their skills in an open area is a good way to attract the attention of potential members, while entertaining those who pass by and stop to watch the duel. Last year, the club did a demonstration in Thorne Hall.
Members of the club range in skill level, including those who have never fenced before. A new member of the club will have the opportunity to learn the sport, and compete alongside, and against, experienced fencers.
“One of the beautiful things about the fencing club is that there is such a wide range of skill levels,” said Ratner. “People who start at the beginning of the semester as true beginners, by the end of the year they are competing in tournaments beside us.”
The club is preparing for another tournament coming up before Thanksgiving break, along with two next semester.