Feb. 13, 2013
You say there is no winning in San Diego. I say that you're not looking.
You are scouring the city for a champion. I can show you a dynasty.
The UCSD fencing team again dominated the IFCSC Individual Championships on Sunday, and the men are now ranked 15th the nation. Brace yourself, ladies and gentlemen -- that's two spots higher than MIT.
In the southwest portion of the United States, you will not find swordsmen more skilled than the Tritons. And aside from Stanford and sometimes Air Force, you won't find any better west of the Mississippi.
They are bosses of the blade who will never be bullied in class. Mainly because most of them are bio majors.
Fencing may never draw crowds that soar into the triple digits. As UCSD coach Heidi Runyan said in response to attendance estimates, "we don't really focus on the spectators."
But that doesn't mean these weapon wielders should go unappreciated - because typically conjoined with their gifted minds and nimble bodies are adventurous spirits.
Tritons sophomore Adam Campbell-Kruger got involved in the sport because of the film "The Princess Bride." He was a middle-schooler watching Inigo Montoya's sword-fighting duels and decided "I want to do that."
UCSD senior Joseph Schenkel was of similar age when his mother told him he was getting too fat and had to find an activity. He chose fencing, and was left with just one disappointment.
"It wasn't at all how I thought a sword fight was going to be. I was expecting clanging and Star Wars-type flips and stuff like that," Schenkel said. "But there's an elegance to it that grew on me. It's like physical chess."
And if it's a chessboard they compete on, the Tritons were Sunday's kings and queens. Dueling against UCLA, USC, Arizona State, UC Irvine, and Caltech, UCSD took the top three spots in men's and women's foil, men's and women's sabre, and men's and women's epee.
The objective of the sport is to accumulate points by "touching" opponents with one's weapon. Where they can strike depends on their sword of choice. And while this "gentlemen's sport" produces dignified behavior 99 percent of the time, don't think that emotions will always stay fettered.
Schenkel has witnessed coaches engage in fistfights in the middle of a competition, or extend a certain digit a referee's way. He has also seen a parent try to distract a fencer by standing in his line of vision and waving his hands throughout the duel.
"It's like he was trying to get him to miss a free throw," Schenkel said.
But that's the raindrop of negative falling into the ocean of positive.
First, there's the education.
Campbell-Kruger, who hails from Colorado, said that when he saw the Air Force fencing team hop off a bus when he was an 11-year-old, he realized the sport could be his ticket to a prestigious academic university. It was.
Then, there's the application.
Coach Runyan's husband, Josh, an assistant coach who's in charge of recruiting when he's not serving as an airline pilot, estimates that the team works out for about two hours and 45 minutes each practice - conditioning their bodies while also refining their technique.And lastly, there's the association.
About every quarter, the UCSD fencing team heads out to the woods and collectively learns the Haka dance, a war cry popularized by the All Blacks - New Zealand's famed rugby team.
Additionally, before each competition, the Tritons stand in a circle with arms around each other, and start chanting "Ah! Ah!" before a team member shouts "we are Tritons!"
"I think it puts fear in our opponent's hearts," said junior Munira Gesner, a member of the women's team ranked 17th in the nation. "Well, at least I hope it does."
Gesner, an environmental systems major, revealed this after stepping outside the library to talk. No question, the opponents are terrified.
-- UCSDtritons.com --