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   Date: 11/5/09 Bookmark and Share

The Big One Puts Smith Fencers On Guard

By Phoebe Camilletti ’11, President, Smith Fencing

It’s fondly known as “the Big One.”

View a video of Smith fencers in action.

Smith fencers lunge and parry at last year's the Big One tournament.

Each fall hundreds of fencers from all over New England mingle excitedly in the flag-spangled walls of Smith’s Indoor Track and Tennis (ITT) facility to test their cunning with variation, their skill with resolve, and their wits with steel. The energy fizzes as foils are crossed. One step inside the ITT makes it clear: this is something you don’t see every day.

Smith’s annual fencing tournament, which takes place this year on Saturday, Nov. 7, has been a staple in the New England fencing community for more than 20 years. The Big One, an annual source of great anticipation among participating fencers and fans of fencing, is one of the first large and legitimately competitive events of the early collegiate season.

The sport of fencing can be difficult to comprehend for those not acquainted with the sport. Sport or Olympic fencing, which is the type studied in the intercollegiate setting, contains three subsets of fencing: foil, sabre, and epee. There are different schools of thought for each, but basic fencing concepts apply to all three.

Fencing is like no other sport. Some love it for the sense of personal rigor it demands; though as a fencer you’re competing against others, you’re also competing with yourself. Smith fencers appreciate it for the leadership skills and teaching experiences it affords.

“Fencing is a contest of minds,” says Smith fencer Miriam Roberts ’10.

Fellow team member Emily Willette ’13 agrees. “You can use your brain to beat someone who’s athletically much stronger.”

Smith fencers enjoy the Big One because of the wide range of abilities represented, explained fencer Lauren Johnson ’11. Roberts likes the individual format, a contrast to many intercollegiate events, which emphasize team competition.

The Big One is of particular significance to the Smith team. It was in fall 1997 that the Smith team first volunteered to host the annual tournament. Following its resounding success as hosts, the team was asked to host again the next year—and every year since.

Smith’s hosting of the Big One helped establish the team, which was just starting when it assumed its annual role as host. The team has since become a prominent presence in the New England fencing scene. After hosting the Big One, Smith fencers have been invited to compete in other events and to join the New England Intercollegiate Fencing Conference (NEIFC).

The Big One has become a valued tradition for the Smith fencing team. Fencers create banners, coordinate volunteer efforts, set up tournament equipment, and coordinate the tournament’s layout on the ITT floor. The team also designs t-shirts, for sale at the tournament. This year’s design, by Faith Unterseher ’11, is a Woodstock-inspired illustration on brightly-hued tie-dye shirts.

To see what fencing is all about, stop by the ITT on Saturday, Nov. 7, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., and experience the Big One.

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