Fencers deal with ‘irritating’ facility

The fencing team practices in a dance studio on campus.

Despite its varsity status, the fencing team needs to reserve its practice times. 

The Owls, who practice in a dance studio, do not have a practice facility that matches their Top 10 ranking. The university voted in December to cut seven sports programs, in part due to facilities. But the fencing team continues to utilize a less-than-ideal practice facility – raising questions as to how the university made its decisions to cut certain athletic programs with facility issues, but to keep others.

The administration has said issues with Title IX, the gender-equity law, were also a reason for the cuts.

The studio, which is shared with dance classes, causes disruptions during the fencing team’s practices. People sometimes walk through the room, which forces the team to stop practicing. Some people get lost in Pearson and McGonigle halls and wander into the dance studio.

“It is a little irritating sometimes,” senior sabre Tasia Ford said. “It really does disrupt our practice.”

The studio is relatively small and inconvenient, fencers said, especially this year. The team has 18 fencers, which is more than the Owls have had in seven years.

The three squads have to rotate who is in the room at a time. Two of the squads fence in the studio while the third goes out into the hallway and does practice drills. Despite this, the team said it makes the best with what it has.

“We do somehow get work done efficiently as much as we can in such a small place,” sophomore sabre Petra Khan said.

The team also has to set up before practice and break down after. It can take anywhere from five to 10 minutes to set up and another five to 10 minutes to break down. The fencers, who practice on the wooden floor because they do not have metal strips, have to attach themselves to reels that are connected to the scoring system and cables that are needed to practice.

Fencers said the most concerning part is practicing on the wooden floor. Without regulation strips, the transition into a meet can be difficult for the team.

“We’re not using the exact distance and area that we are allowed in a real bout… that’s the worst part about it,” Khan said.

The time wasted is also a problem for the team. The little things they have to do cause the Owls to miss out on practice time. Other schools with larger and more practical facilities don’t have the problems Temple’s fencing team has experienced.

“Everybody knows it… it’s small and it’s not the most ideal space,” Ford said.

Schools like Cornell, Ohio State and the University of Pennsylvania have dedicated fencing rooms that span thousands of square feet with built-in strips and an electronic scoring system. Temple has none of these benefits.

“We go there and fence and see these nice facilities, especially Penn’s,” Khan said. “Their facility is incredible. We can only hope to one day have that.”

Temple is not alone, however. The University of Detroit Mercy has a similar fencing facility to the Owls. The Titans practice in a multipurpose room, which Athletic Director  Robert Vowels Jr. said is similar to a dance studio. Boston College also does not have a room dedicated to fencing, as its team  practices on tennis courts and has to set up and break down, just like Temple.

The fencing team’s success has been unlike any other program at the school. The program has not been ranked outside the Top 10 since 2008 and has 37 postseason appearances. The Owls have won 18 straight National Intercollegiate Women’s Fencing Association championships. Fencers said this success should be rewarded.

“It is definitely annoying because we do deserve our own space to work out in and practice,” Ford said. “We are one of the better teams at the school.”

Within the past few years, Temple has continued to upgrade facilities – but not for fencing. The football program received a $10 million upgrade in 2012 to its facility, Edberg Olson Hall. The basketball team received a $1 million upgrade to its practice facility in 2012. In 2009, Geasey Field upgraded to a new turf field.

But with the recent athletic cuts, the team is only hoping for the best.

“We would like to have our own private place where we won’t be interrupted by other people,” Khan said.

Michael Guise can be reached at michaelguise@temple.edu or on Twitter @MikeG2511.

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