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Faculty Fencing Match

By Sean Callahan

Dr. McMahon and Dr. Bennett fight it out in a fencing match that went on for 19 rounds. (Source: Callahan)

In-person club events aren’t as common during the pandemic, but that hasn’t stopped Fencing Club from thinking of new ideas to draw in potential members.

On April 20, Fencing Club members and about a dozen other students watched as Dr. Christopher McMahon, professor of theology, and Dr. Elaine Bennett, associate professor of sociology and anthropology, dueled in Melvin Platz.

Students—several of whom ate lunch while they observed—sat on benches or stood at a safe distance as the two professors began their duel on the sunny and breezy day, at 2:30 p.m. The duel went on until almost 3 p.m.

The aim was simple: land a hit each round before the opponent does. Each first hit on any part of the body—which was covered in protective white gear and helmets—would result in 1 point. The goal was to reach 11 points.

Bennett scored the first hit, and the two professors kept the score competitive, despite McMahon capturing a one-point lead quickly. But by McMahon’s sixth point, his lead on Bennett began to increase. The duel ended with McMahon as the winner with 11 points and Bennett with 8 points.

But after the main event concluded Bennett and McMahon went at it again, this time, with lightsabers. They only fought three rounds, with Bennett emerging as the victor.

McMahon claimed afterwards that he had very little experience with fencing. He mentioned a club fair he attended recently in which a student had challenged him to a friendly fencing duel in front of the Carey Center.

“That was the only other time I’ve ever picked up a sword. It was fun, it was hilarious. She killed me!” McMahon said. “I had zero hand strength.”

In comparison, Bennett said she hadn’t worked with fencing before, but she did have experience with longswords. She maintained it was a very different experience because of the two-handed technique of the longsword compared to the foil, which is held in one hand.

Furthermore, she agreed with McMahon that the fight was lots of fun. She also believes in supporting student initiatives when she can.

According to junior accounting major and Fencing Club member Chad Packe, Fencing Club meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30 to 11:30 p.m., and the club takes anyone as a member regardless of lack of fencing gear or experience. However, only five or six members come to most meetings. This event, Packe said, was a good way to create more activity for the club.

“We just thought it would be a fun idea. And Dr. McMahon and Dr. Bennett seemed like they would be the most interested, especially Dr. Bennett since she has used the longsword,” Packe said.

Jonas Wudkwych, a senior mechanical engineering major and Fencing Club member, said the club has attempted to hold events like the April 20 duel before. However, having to navigate prior commitments and classes throughout the semester has made it difficult for club members and two professors to commit to a time for a duel.

“We lucked out that everybody was able to come together and that we could actually have an event,” Wudkwych said.


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