“I felt my dignity lowered to a new level, but I was
willing to make the sacrifice for my team.”

These were the words of Drew Ahrroun, a member of the Michigan
club fencing team, describing his participation in the
choreographed dance competition at the yearly formal dance the team
holds. He was part of the men’s foil squad that defeated the
long reigning champion men’s épée team by
performing a dance to Sisqo’s “Thong Song.”

Memories like these help the members of the squad — which
will compete at the Remenyik Open in Evanston this weekend —
succeed as a team.

“It’s an individual sport, but you still have to
work together to improve,” fencer Diane Fiander said.

Despite the fact that “working together” means
hitting your teammate with a sharp metal object, the team gets
along very well.

“They are so much fun to be around,” first-year
member Sandhya Kirshnam said of her older teammates.
“It’s because of them that we get our
enthusiasm.”

Kirshnam is not the only member who feels this way. Ask any
other member of the team and you’ll get a similar response
— it’s the people, not necessarily the sport, that
keeps them coming back week after week.

“These are the friendliest people you’ll ever
meet,” Christina Brewton said of her teammates.

It’s not just the time together inside the gym that the
team cherishes; it’s also those special moments outside of
the sport which help them bond and ultimately make the team
successful.

“It’s a good thing to hang out with your teammates
after you’re exhausted from practice,” Fiander
said.

Two traditions have held up particularly well for the Wolverine
— the formal dance and, of course, the road trip.

The dance is held at the end of every year, and gives the team
an opportunity to have some fun with each other as well as
embarrass themselves.

The other tradition is the naming of the “Paper Plate
Award” winners. As one can infer, the team gives out awards
in the form of a paper plate to different teammates.

For example, club president Josh Jacques was the winner of the
“Pretty Pretty Princess” award, which he earned for
spending the most time in the shower.

The team also has a few traditions that it employs on every road
trip.

One custom of the team is to go to Outback Steakhouse before
every away match. Of course this becomes twice as fun when
they’re in the middle of Columbus wearing all of the Maize
and Blue paraphernalia they can get their hands on. No matter where
they may be, they will find an Outback. At times they have had to
travel more than an hour away just to continue this tradition.

Another tradition is the “Foil Fixing Party” before
every away match. Because equipment is very expensive and breaks
easily, it is often more efficient to try to fix it rather than buy
more. So the team gets together to fix all its equipment before the
big match.

Practical jokes are also the norm. Team members fondly recall
staging a fencing match inside of a hotel lobby before a meet at
Northwestern, scaring many women who were attending a convention at
the hotel. But as Meg Nisch can tell you, practical jokes are not
only reserved for people outside the team.

Nisch recalls a joke from last year, when the team was making
the trip to New Hampshire for a national competition (in which it
would finish fourth overall). Teammate George Kiwada was in another
one of the team’s vans and called Nisch to tell her he had
been stopped by Canadian border patrol.

Kiwada then told Nisch he was being detained by the
“police” — her teammates — who then got on
the phone to ask Nisch questions about Kiwada’s status as a
U.S. citizen. After answering the questions, Kiwada informed Nisch
of the practical joke and had quite a laugh.

“I was worried about George,” Nisch said. “But
there will be payback.”

Sean O’Brien sums up what he loves about fencing for the
team and why he thinks everyone, no matter their skill level,
should try it.

“It’s not just a sport,” O’Brien said.
“Everyone comes in here clumsy. People who have been doing it
here started out the same way. It’s as much about having fun
and enjoying yourself as it is fencing. Fencing’s a lot of
fun, but its just good being around fun people.”

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