Dueling on the quad

Dueling on the quad

If you wandered through campus anytime in the past few months, you’ve probably noticed a flurry of activity that roused the quads out of their usual summer stillness—the beeping and rumbling of construction trucks, the chatter of students strolling to summer classes, an admissions tour guide barking out information to a group of nervous applicants. But wait—was that sword fighting that I just heard in Bartlett Quad?

About a dozen members of the University’s coed fencing club took to the concrete footpaths this summer between the Reg and Bartlett Dining Hall to stay in shape, fine-tune their form, and…beat the heat?

If choosing to head outdoors into the Chicago summer, dressed in the thick white fencing jackets and masks, seems a bit counterintuitive, just ask co-captain Jeremy Kane, ’11. “It’s just too hot in Henry Crown during the summer,” Kane said, referring to the poorly ventilated old fieldhouse that the team uses for its practice space during the school year.

And why not? The team was looking to work on new tricks to take into their fall training. There are about 30 members of the fencing club, while 24 members split evenly among the men and women make it onto the competition squad. The walkways that crisscross the quad substitute perfectly for the long, narrow mats the team usually practices on and allows them to enjoy the grassy campus and blue skies.

Not that the team’s decision to move outside was without its awkward moments. “We definitely got some weird looks,” said team member Krista Nicoletto. Kane shrugged and rolled his eyes. “Yeah, we got heckled by some football players too,” he remembered. The team has mostly concluded its sessions outdoors as the remaining weeks of the summer dwindle by.

In general, the dueling and lunging was not too much of an inconvenience for people passing through, though I was reminded of a past sports-related scare on the same quad. In previous spring quarters, I have had to frantically duck to miss a cricket ball that whizzed over my head while walking by the Reg. A group of cricket players had decided that Bartlett Quad was the ideal place to set up their sprawling game, despite the dangerously close range passersby would be to their bats and balls.

I mentioned this to Kane, and his face instantly became animated. So quick to defend his team that he almost lunged at me like I was an opponent in a duel. “No way! We’re not as bad as those cricket players!” he said, looking down at his fancy blue fencing shoes and twirling his foil sword, “I mean, we’re just way cooler than they are, right?”

Luke Fiedler, '10

Matthias Jamison-Koenig, AB'09, and Isadora Blachman-Biatch, '11, square off during a recent summer training session on Bartlett Quad.

September 15, 2009