Sam Richardson '08 was the first BC fencer to ever compete in the NCAA Tournament epee division. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)
He Makes a Point of Enjoying His Sport
A championship season has BC fencer ready and eager to duel again
By Reid Oslin
While the Eagles' basketball and hockey teams were basking in the national limelight of their recent NCAA championship tournament appearances, another Boston College student-athlete was competing for an NCAA title in a far less visible sport.
Sam Richardson, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences, became the first BC fencer to qualify for the NCAA championship tournament in the epee competition - the weapon division considered to be the purest form of the sport.
Richardson took part in the NCAA fencing championships held March 18 and 19 in Houston. Although he wasn't among the top finishers, Richardson came away with a wealth of positive experiences he hopes will help carry him to future championship competition.
"I had never been in a competition that hard," said Richardson, a Minneapolis native. "It was two days of really tough competition. I didn't do as well as I had hoped, but it was a lot of fun to fence at that high a level. To have made it up to that competition level itself was a reward for the season."
Richardson was one of seven epeeists from the northeast region to qualify for the NCAA championships. He finished fourth in the regional qualifier at Harvard on March 7 to earn a trip to the national finals hosted by Rice University. At Houston, he took part in a 24-event round-robin competition of five-touch bouts over the two-day tourney.
Fencing competition is divided into three weapon classes: epee, foil and saber. The epee competition involves touches of the weapon tip only to any part of an opponent's body. It is considered to be the purest form of fencing - derived from the centuries-old skill of dueling.
"You condition your body to respond before you even think about it," says Richardson of his sport. "If you are thinking while you are fencing, you are going to lose. You will be too slow."
Richardson began his fencing career out of curiosity. While in middle school, he noticed that a fencing academy - the Minnesota Sword Club - had opened at the site of a former bowling alley in his Minneapolis neighborhood.
"I used to walk by it every day on my way to school," he says. "I finally went in there one day and talked to some of the instructors and told them that I would come back and try it out. It was a year later, but I finally went back there and one of the coaches began mentoring me."
He continued to train at the academy throughout high school and began to compete in various local and, eventually, national competitions.
"You get to know people going to the national tournaments," Richardson says. "It's a small community."
One of the people he met was Sydney Fadner, coach of the Boston College men's and women's fencing teams and a professional instructor at the Boston Fencing Club.
Boston College was an easy connection for Richardson to make. "My brother goes to a Jesuit school, Loyola of Chicago," he said. "So I was looking for a Jesuit school that had fencing. When I came to Boston College I was pretty sure that I was going to fence."
Boston College fencers traditionally compete against varsity teams from Harvard, Brandeis, Brown, MIT, Yale and Penn and clubs from Vassar and Tufts.
"There are a couple of kids who fence in the New England division who are at the Olympic level," he says. "I'd love to be there, but to move to that level it has to be your life - it has to be your summer job; it has to be your extracurricular goal. I love the sport and I really enjoy doing it, but I'm just not there yet."
Richardson, an English major, plans to spend the fall semester studying in Ireland at University College Dublin. But he'll be back in time for the 2007 fencing season, which he hopes will include another shot at the NCAAs.
"I was pretty happy with the way things turned out this year," he said. "And I'm really looking forward to next year."