At the end of the weekend, most students can be found doing homework, hanging out with friends, or hitting the weights at the McCann Center. However, in the back corner of the Marist gymnasium on a Sunday afternoon, another group of students is trying to stab each other with swords.
That group of five to nine students are a part of the Marist Club Fencing Team.
Fencing does not garner much national attention, but it is an Olympic sport that uses modern variations of swords to score points by hitting their opponent on a target area. Fencers make use of electronic scoring devices to register touches, while referees administer the rules and control the flow of the match. There are three separate events in fencing which include foil, épée, and sabre.
“Tournaments are gender-specific, so there will be a men’s saber squad and then a women’s saber squad,” captain Katherine Quinn ‘22 said. “I specialize in saber, so you can hit anywhere on the waist above and the mask. In épée, you can hit your opponent anywhere on the body. In foil, you can only hit someone on their vest.”
The team practices all year, but their main events usually take place in November and December. When they compete against Vassar, the match is a tournament style and they will spend all day fencing different colleges in the three different events. The head coach, Calvin Dinio ‘15, determines what events and tournaments the athletes will enter.
“We try to go to as many tournaments as we can,” Dinio said. “Usually about half of them are school-based tournaments and then half of them are individual. It’s great to be back this year after last year with COVID when we could only do footwork drills.”
Dinio was a graduate of the class of 2015 and was on the fencing team during his time at Marist. The Fencing Club Team had been established prior to Dinio coming to Marist, but he said that “it’s been in the background for many years.” In addition to coaching Marist, Dinio is also the head coach of the fencing team at Arlington High School in Lagrangeville, New York.
“In high school, it was an option for me and I thought fighting with swords sounds cool,” Dinio said. “I have been coaching at Marist since the fall of 2015, and I was a student on the team before that.”
There is no experience necessary to join the fencing team and Marist has the resources to provide students with the equipment if needed. While many of the athletes take advantage of the Marist swords and uniforms, freshman Peter Amedolara carries his own bag and swords to the gym for every practice.
“I have my own weapon case, but when I walk down here, I can’t fit everything in it, so people always ask ‘Why do you have a sword in your hand?’” Amedolara said.
Wearing a fencing uniform with USA and his last name displayed across the back, Amedolara is an experienced fencer from high school. At many practices, he will teach other team members different drills and strategies to improve their fencing technique. After a little prep, Amedolara hooks the electric cord through his uniform and will fence someone himself.
“I will teach them how to do point control, how to lunge, and then I will break them up into groups and they will do that themselves,” said Amedolara. “Then when I feel like they are ready, I will have them go against each other and see what they hit.”
While intramural and club sports programs at Marist are not as time consuming as Division I athletics, the team still puts in an ample amount of practice time. As a team, they meet three times a week for about three hours, which gives them time to do stretching, drills, and fencing practice. All the practice put in is tested in their limited number of 2-3 tournaments throughout the year, depending on their budget and schedule.
“I had never done fencing before I came to Marist,” Issac Nicholas ‘22 said. “Competing against Vassar is great because fencing in events against people who are completely new is fun.”
As a senior, Nicholas met many of his friends on the fencing team and stuck with it after freshman year because he thought it was enjoyable. According to his teammates, Nicholas has also become one of the best fencers on the team since his freshman year. He proved that fencing is a sport that can be joined and practiced at any stage in life.
As the sun sets along the Hudson River on a late winter afternoon, the Marist Fencing Team can be found in the back corner of the gym stabbing each other with ear-to-ear smiles. For many on the team, fencing is their sport, their passion, but overall it creates a sense of belonging and comradery that isn’t easily found on a college campus.
Edited by Ricardo Martinez and Bridget Reilly
Photo Credit: Greta Stuckey