Last weekend, the College’s club sport fencing team took part in the 35th Annual Temple Open Fencing Tournament — the largest individual collegiate fencing tournament in the nation. The team sent three fencers, including junior and club president Joanna Felsenstein. Competing on Saturday, Nov. 1, and Sunday, Nov. 2, the fencers were able to come out of the tournament with personal success.
“For me, after competing last year, I felt that I needed to improve and place higher, as I did,” said Felsenstein, who was able to improve from last year’s tournament. Last year, she placed 38th out of 86 fencers. This year, she placed 29th out of 92 épée fencers.
The men’s fencers — sophomore Scott Eckert and freshman Alex Heinrich — did a decent job, according to Felsenstein, placing 46th out of 92 sabre fencers and 54th out of 83 foil fencers, respectively.
Even though the men’s results for the tournament weren’t what they hoped for, the experience of competing in the tournament was “quite positive for the fencers,” and it was a “good learning experience,” according to Felsenstein.
She explained that the club fencing team is a small group on campus. The teams that competed in the tournament were well-funded varsity teams that have practice every day alongside a full coaching staff.
“If you take how we each did overall, by people from club teams only, then all of us did very well,” Felsenstein said, showing pride for her teammates.
Felsenstein, along with her own improvement from the year before, had a large comeback that was as unusual as it was flattering.
Felsenstein, while in her first, intense round of Direct Elimination (DE), faced a fencer from New York University’s varsity fencing team. During her first three-minute period, and with about a minute left, she was down 0-5 — by the end of first period, she was down 2-5. The fencers were given a break, and during this time, Felsenstein had a moment of encouragement from her coach.
“I had some Gatorade and a talk with my coach, and then began the second period of three minutes,” Felsenstein said. During this period, she gained seven touches while her competitor only gained three, putting Felsenstein in the lead, 9-8. Finally, during her last three-minute period, she was able to win 15-10, making it one of her biggest comebacks.
Like Felsenstein, the team is full of hardworking fencers. They practice three days a week in the Decker Hall Main Lounge with two-hour practices. Felsenstein, as president and leader of the club, doesn’t get as much practice time, though. To prepare for the tournament, she practiced at the Bucks County Academy of Fencing — a fencing club nearby — for two Friday evenings in a row. A volunteer coach, Jonathan Seidel, coaches the team and leads its drills and stretches.
The dedicated club team was officially funded by the Student Finance Board and recognized by Student Government in 2010 — three years after the club got started. At that time, the club had 40 active members. During the fall 2012 semester, then-freshman Felsenstein was given her current leadership position and the sporting equipment. Felsenstein was able to recruit new members, fix equipment and find a place for the team to practice during the following semester.
The club is excited that its presence has grown on campus, and with the success it had during the tournament, the team has a lot to look forward to in the future.