Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The true knights of Carleton

<st Sunday I sat in on the Carleton Fencing Club’s practice. Let’s just say it looked like quite the workout. The fencers first shake hands, and then go to their separate sides of the fencing strip (which is simply the vertical strip of ground fencers spar on). The strip, according to the International Fencing Federation’s current regulations, is between 1.5 and 2 metres wide and 14 metres long, and fencers can only move up and down on it. The four fencers at this practice rotated between being referees and fencing each other. According to Read Wilder ’20, “It’s kind of hand and hand; you get better as you ref and you become a better ref as you fence.”

As I was watching two other fencers, Nikko Baer ’20 and Brody Lynch ’20 spar, Read explained some of the rules to me. For example, as a ref your job is to determine whether the fencers made a hit “on target” or not. What constitutes an on target hit depend on the sword being used (épée, foil, or sabre), but for the one most commonly practiced at Carleton (foil) it is the chest area.
The group has limitations on their practices for a few reasons. They do not have an electric fencing system (which tells fencers when they have hit on target or not), so they need one fencer to be a referee. However, due to their small team size, this means they can’t have more than one match going on at a time. This is also due to space constraints. The group is still not considered a club sport and thus it is difficult for them to get space to practice. They have to compete against club and varsity teams for space in the Cowling Gymnasium. They hope to be given club sport status in the coming years.

That being said, according to one of the fencers, it was a club sport back in 2009, so they are hoping this precedent will help them. They are also hoping to get funding for new equipment, since the equipment they currently use is from the old team. Alleana Austin ’20 added that it is important to know that fencing is actually a very safe sport, and only looks dangerous because of the swords.

“Read and I both have been fencing for several years, and the worst either of us has ever gotten is a bruise,” she said. However, the fact that they use swords, even ones with rubber protectors on the end,  meant that the administration was more cautious when giving them club status. Austin said that they “had to get the liability sorted out and everything…I mean, that’s like a general sports thing, but I feel like there is kind of like a shock value with the addition of swords.”

Men and women fencers spar against each other, except during major competitions like the Olympics, something I was surprised by. In competitive fencing, Austin said there is definitely a gender ratio issue, with more men than women, but this is not so much the case with Carleton’s team.

The ten fencers who participate regularly come from a variety of backgrounds, although most had no experience prior to coming to Carleton. That being said, two of the fencers at Sunday’s practice, Wilder and Austin, have had considerably different experiences. Wilder had been fencing on-and-off since middle school through club teams in his home state of Arizona, which is they way he says most fencers start. Austin, on the other hand, actually had fencing class as a PE option at her high school in California. However, both stressed that no experience is necessary to fence at Carleton.

While there are fencers from all class years, those who attend most regularly are freshman. This is because Wilder, one of the club’s leaders, posted about his interested in fencing on the Class of 2020 Facebook page. He wasn’t sure if there was a club at Carlton or not, but if there wasn’t he wanted to see if there was enough interest to form one. When I asked the team what they wanted Carls to know about their club, Baer said the following: “We’re very open to having people come into any meeting if they want to and learn. Because we’re getting started and we’re all pretty new at this as well…we really want to build up the club this year.” They’re also thinking of organizing an informal meet with St. Olaf’s team next term and hope to compete in the future.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *