Fencing team competes in NCAA

From Greek mythology to wrapping paper rolls and pirates to broomsticks, sword fighting has been around for centuries. 

And now, Bradley students had the chance to take the fight to the NCAA level.

The Bradley University Fencing Club competed at the Midwest Fencing Conference Championships at the University of Notre Dame March 1 to 2. Headed by senior religious studies major Annamaria Lu, the team earned an overall 19th out of 22 total teams.

This is the first year the BU Fencing Club competed in a NCAA competition. Lu said there has always been a small group of people in the club who go to tournaments, but this was the first year the club competed as a team.

The club competed against elite varsity university teams with scholarship athletes.

“There isn’t a qualification path for a club team to join the conference,” Lu said. “There are not many varsity programs so any club can petition to be a member.”

Accordig to Lu, the conference this year included “powerhouses” like Ohio State University, Northwestern University and University of Notre Dame.

“[Competing] gave the club more of a team feeling, and we became more supportive of each other,” said the club’s secretary Krista Burkhardt. “We were able to compete with and get to know members of other club teams in the area.”

The club is partnered with Peoria Fencing Academy, where the coaches provide extra instruction and a large area for practice.

Brian Jao, Marc Roman and the two former Bradley fencers, Theresa Stoodley ‘12 and Keegan Roach ’09, are the instructors for the club.

Three different swords are wielded in competition and make up the three divisions: the épée, the sabre and the foil. Each division has a different scoring area on which the opponents“ body can be struck.

Lu spoke modestly about her contributions in her first year as the club’s president, but she said the team needed some rebuilding when she came in. The member enrollment at that time was less than 10 athletes, and they did not compete.

Now, during Lu’s inaugural year as president, that number exceeds 20 fencers.

“I would love to see fencing become a varsity sport at Bradley,” Lu said. “We’re in the conference, we have the people. That’s my pipedream.”