NEWS, NOTES &
The Bradsher Beat
Friday, June 6, 2008
By Bethany Bradsher
Swordsmanship alive in Pirate
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If buccaneer lore and Hollywood franchises are
to be believed, early pirates spent a good bit of time drawing their swords
and then parrying and striking up and down the slippery deck of a listing
Which is why a little-known group of club
athletes might be considered the most authentic Pirates at East Carolina.
Meet the ECU Fencing Team – true swashbuckling pirates.
When Steven Kmiec arrived here as a freshman,
the fencing team was small and disorganized. Kmiec had fenced some when he
was younger, and he wanted to compete in the sport at ECU. He generated some
publicity and brought in more than a dozen new fencers, mostly students who
came in knowing little or nothing about the sport.
“Very few people ever have the opportunity to
try fencing before they get to college,” Kmiec said.
So completely did these new fencers take to the
sport that just three years after Kmiec helped reorganize the club, three of
his fencers won first place at the South Atlantic Collegiate Championships
in February at N.C. State. At the tournaments they enter around the state,
they have consistently overachieved.
“We’ve tried to build it into something
competitive, Kmiec said. “Considering how little experience we have and the
fact that it’s not much of a fencing culture, we’ve had better than expected
Lily Trout was so flabbergasted by her team’s
first place finish at that February tournament that she wondered if the
presenter had read the wrong name. But their women’s epee team – Trout,
Jessica Beall and Virginia Stewart – had outlasted 16 other teams in the
elimination stage of one of the few team-scored tournaments they have ever
“We worked really well together, because there
was no one single fencer on any the teams who could beat all three of us,”
Trout came into the sport late in life – her
mother had fenced in her youth and Trout had always been intrigued by the
sport. The ECU club team offered her the ideal opportunity, and she was soon
Trout's success at the
N.C. State tournament was a little like a college student shooting baskets
for the first time outside his dorm, and then walking on to the varsity
basketball team and making the All-Conference Team.
“When I got to ECU as a
freshman, I just wanted to try something I’d never done before,” she said.
And there’s one more
twist that makes Trout’s fencing journey even more compelling: Growing up in
Atlanta, her classmates might have voted her “Least Likely to Ever Win an
“I’ve never actually been
all that athletic,” she said. “But you don’t have to be that athletic.
Fencing is short, intense bursts, so you don’t have to have that much
endurance. You’re never actually competing for more than three minutes, but
that can seem like a long time.”
When ECU is in session,
the fencing team practices twice a week and competes once or twice a month,
and many of the tournaments are hosted by a vibrant fencing community in
Wilmington. The tournaments, which are generally open events with awards for
individuals only, are vital for the Pirate fencers because they show them
how much more they have to learn, Trout said.
“You can only do so well
fencing the same people over and over again,” she said. “You think you’re
doing OK, then you go to Wilmington and get your butt kicked, and you say,
‘I need to go home and work on my parries.”
The next hurdle for the
Pirates’ team is another tournament at N.C. State on June 21. The field for
that contest will include some of the top athletes in the sport, Trout said,
so it will be an exceptional test for the handful of ECU fencers who are
planning to compete there.
Kmiec has noticed a
heightened interest in fencing this year because of the upcoming Summer
Olympics, but Trout said that most of her classmates at ECU still don’t
know what fencing is or how one succeeds in the sport.
The club does have team
T-shirts, but they are plain white with black “ECU Fencing” printed on the
front. Nothing about swashbuckling pirates.
That might be a marketing
opportunity that someone needs to tap into.
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06/06/2008 03:58:30 AM