We woke up at 6 am and started to slowly get ready for the competition ahead of us. We went downstairs to see what the wonderful Hampton Inn had to offer. We were able to scrounge up some oatmeal and froot loops for breakfast and then we were back on the bus headed to the competition. My heart was pumping like crazy the entire ride there because I was so nervous about today. I was going into this competition as one of the top seeds and so I was in a pretty good spot to succeed. We got there and started to warm up and cheer on our teammates who were already fencing. When it was finally our time to fence I felt a bit off because my favorite weapon had broken and I felt way too much pressure from my coach to be relaxed. My first pool (and only pool because I sucked) was really rough. I tried to get my head in it but I was fighting myself the entire time. I ended up going 0-5 and not qualifying for NCAAs even after I had a great ass season. It sucks that this one competition is a make or break point for making nationals but you live an you learn. It sucks that I did’t make it but I am just going to win everything next year, regionals and nationals included.
This last week I qualified to fence in regionals for a chance to fence at NCAAs. It was held in Easton, PA at Lafayette college (a school I had never heard of). We weren’t at the actual school we were at their sports complex which was oddly located in the middle of a very cute PA neighborhood. It took us about four hours to actually get to our hotel. Imagine four hours being squished into a bus with no wifi and no chargers so whatever battery you had left was what you had. Most people slept however my friend Julian and I decided to watch Captain America and the Winter Soldier. We only managed to get around halfway done before we lost power on his laptop. After his laptop died we ended up joining the rest of the teams napping. When we finally got there we had to unload all of our stuff and chill for about an hour before we left to check our stuff. My roommate and I hadn’t eaten anything all day so we were starving, we decided to go in search of food and ended up finding easy mac and Doritos. We each had two easy macs and two bags of chips and felt pretty fat afterwards. We then had to reload all of our equipment onto the bus and drive like half an hour away to get to the sports center. We ended up being the first school there and meant we got to check our stuff first. As we were in line waiting for our stuff to be checked Princeton and Temple University showed up. I have old teammates from both schools so it turned into a little reunion for our hometown club. It was amazing to see everyone again and was I was kind of sad I had to leave even though I would see them the next day. After we left the equipment check we went straight to this little Italian restaurant in town. There were so many of us that we pretty much took over the entire restaurant. We lucked out because instead of paying for our dinner like normal our supervisor decided to pay for everything. After dinner we unloaded the bus one last time and went to bed to prepare for our competition tomorrow.
This Junior Olympics was a not a good tournament for me as it was my last shot at world team. Sadly, I blew it and I will not be a 2017 World Team member but I do hope to be on team again next year. The road to world team is a long one and when you mix that with collegiate fencing, school and sleep it seems impossible to balance everything.
I am going to post this background information again to try to explain what I am talking about.
I travel around the country and around the world in an effort to try and make National Team and recently retaining my World Team status. National team is the top twelve girls on the points list and are selected to represent the United States of America in International tournaments. Of these twelve girls the top four are taken for World Team. The World Team competes in that years World Championships. I have been lucky enough to have made it the past two years and I’m fighting for this year’s team. Another part of fencing is the collegiate meets. When we travel we either get the cheapest flight or we bus for hours to get where we are going. This means that about seventy of us are all crammed onto a bus for eight hours or more to go to competition, Unless it’s a travel team only competition in which case the number drops to around fifteen people. No matter the size, when we travel while representing Penn State we aren’t seeing luxury hotels or eating at fancy restaurants. We are more likely than not eating at the host college’s dining hall and staying in Hampton Inns or something.
For this blog I will talk about my super annoying trip to the great Kansas City for a pretty awful tournament.
For this passion blog I will be talking about our home meet. Yes I know it doesn’t really count as a travel blog however it is an interesting process. Every year Penn State hosts two tournaments the Penn State dual meet and the Garret Open. Both of these competitions are held at the white building either in the gyms upstairs or the basement where we generally practice. Yes we practice in the basement because we aren’t football RIP.
The Penn State team hosts so we are required to set everything up ourselves from media coverage to strips being set up. Generally there isn’t much of an audience besides our sponsors and other fencing teams and parents however for the Dual Meet we always advertise with flyers, radio announcements, and anything else we can think of because we fence our rivals Columbia. Columbia has been NCAA champs for the past two years and we plan to take them down which I find ironic as my best friend is on that team.
The preparation is generally ore of an annoyance than anything because it requires us to come in on our free time and set up tables, posters, and strips. Setting up strips isn’t hard its just time consuming as they don’t always fit together well or the coaches may want us to redo the entire thing which happens frequently. The team always jokes about the coaches and their sexism as they always assign “women’s work” (don’t worry they don’t actually say that) which consists of either being a human paperweight or putting posters up while all the guys on the team have to actually work. After strip set up we always try to have a group team dinner and this past time we did it as a giant potluck. We all had to bring an assigned food item and it was one of the best team bonding moments of the year.
The day of the tournament is always crazy as we don’t have to move but we fence like ten teams in one day. There is always a squad of parents who bring a crap ton of food and basically baby us whenever we need anything which is amazing. If you are part of the team but not fencing we are required to “dress for success” and help host or referee matches. Dressing for success is business casual I believe however as a freshman I am still figuring it out.
After the tournament we have to clean the gyms of trash and then have to undo all of our hard work and start to take strips down. This isn’t always bad as we start to slowly take them down before the tournament is completely finished to try and be ahead of schedule.
I hope this helped give a bit of an overview of home meets and I invite all of you to come out and see us next year. We are hosting NCAAs next year and it will be super exciting!
This post is late as well but in my defense I am currently flying somewhere over the Atlantic ocean using crappy wifi I was forced to buy from United because I have an essay due. I have been in Helsinki Finland this weekend for a world cup and I am finally on my way to sweet ole PSU. I have already been to Helsinki in fact I wrote a blog post about it last semester, however this post will be so different than the last as this time there was also a mens event here at the same time which always makes things super interesting.
This time coming to Finland was a lot less exciting than last years however I certainly enjoyed myself much more than last time. There were no trips to the city (we were staying at a small hotel next to the convention center like 15 min away from the actual city) so there were no cute cafes or cool churches to visit, instead we wandered to the grocery store and this shack that looked like a really sketchy food truck called X-burger which was surprisingly delicious it was actually one of the best burgers I have had in a while. Besides our occasional outing to the convention center and X-burger, we mostly just stayed in the hotel and hung out or in my case did homework in the same room with all my friends because I have no time to spare anymore.
The actual tournament was both super stressful and really fun. It was awful in terms of having to think about results and team points ( I am currently fighting for the last spot on the team that represents the USA at world championships) but when I forgot about all the political stuff and get in my zone I always have a blast no matter how much I complain about it. Our individual event started at around 11:30 which is pretty late for us as we mostly get 7-8 am check in. We fenced a round of pools and then had DEs until around 8. It only took this long because they were running the men and women event at the same time and three of us made the top 8, myself included. After fencing all day and gaining some team points (yaaassss) we had to rush to the hotel restaurant because the kitchen closed at 10 and we got there around 9:15.
When we sat down and looked at the menu we realized it was the same exact menu as previous years and you know what that means, pasta drowned in bbq sauce with some chicken tossed on it. My friend and I are both still scarred from last time haha. I branched out and had meatballs one night, a burger another and then finally tried the salmon all of which I thought were excellent. The next day was team events so we had to be there early and have group warmups as well as plan our chants.
Team events help the USA standing team wise at worlds so we always make sure we fence it for practice. We had a tough ladder and only got sixth however we all fenced very well considering we were pooped from the day before. After team finished we trecked down to X-burger one more time and just kind of chilled out until people had to catch shuttles for their flights home.
As you can see tournaments are pretty in and out especially when you have a shit ton of hw to do.
I originally thought I was going to change my topic to a review of microwave meals however as busy as I am I realized that I have zero time for that. As a result I will continue my travel stories. Ill start by a recap about what this blog is for those of you who weren’t forced to read my blog posts last year.
I’ve been to Austria, France, Finland, Hungary, Spain and even Uzbekistan, however the circumstances on why I am there are very different than your normal traveler’s. When I travel I have the privilege to see rundown convention centers (most of which are gross and smell weird it’s lovely), the occasional family owned restaurant, and the local H&M if i’m lucky. This is because when I visit other states or countries I am there to compete either for my Club or the USA national team in Fencing.
I am a competitive fencer and have been for about seven years now. I travel around the country and around the world in an effort to try and make National Team and recently retaining my World Team status. National team is the top twelve girls on the points list and are selected to represent the United States of America in International tournaments. Of these twelve girls the top four are taken for World Team. The World Team competes in that years World Championships. I have been lucky enough to have made it the past two years and I’m fighting for this year’s team. Another part of fencing is the collegiate meets. When we travel we either get the cheapest flight or we bus for hours to get where we are going. This means that about seventy of us are all crammed onto a bus for eight hours or more to go to competition, Unless it’s a travel team only competition in which case the number drops to around fifteen people. No matter the size, when we travel while representing Penn State we aren’t seeing luxury hotels or eating at fancy restaurants. We are more likely than not eating at the host college’s dining hall and staying in Hampton Inns or something.
The point of that long ass background information was to make it clear that when I travel and blog about it, don’t be expecting some artsy post about a cute little french town that I have been to. Not to say that the french towns I visit aren’t adorable, most are, and most do have excellent food however don’t be expecting to plan your summer vacation trip with this information.
Not much for the first post but it gives some good background information on my blog and why I am late posting a bit. This semester I will be traveling every weekend be it for collegiate meets or team stuff I’m hella busy. Im just glad I will be in town for our discussions.
As I mention almost every blog, there are two different circuits of fencing. There are the National Team competitions and Collegiate meets. For this competition the first NAC (North American Cup) it was on the National team circuit however Penn State paid for some of its athletes to compete in representation of the university. Because we were being paid for by the school we had to drive to Detroit from State College and stayed at the cheapest hotel, The Red roof Inn. I’m not trying to badmouth the university and I’m grateful that they thought I was worth paying for, I am just trying to set the expectation for what the conditions of these competitions are.
This was the first competition I had fenced for Penn State and it was basically what I thought it would be. Just as we did in Temple all the people fencing on the same day were vanned to the competition which means there were ten people crammed in with luggage for about six hours. The ride wasn’t that bad as most of us slept, played heads up, or did homework. You have to be careful about sleeping on these rides though because your teammates will be jerks and post you on social media.
The good thing about this particular trip was we didn’t have to “dress for success”. We were required to wear our warmups but everyone just changed in the van after so we were not as uncomfortable during the ride as we were when wearing dresses and heels. I always make sure that I have charged everything from laptop to Ipad to phone during these trips because music and movies are the only reason I don’t end up killing some of my teammates.
The competition itself was fun as we all got to see our former club mates and catch up with old friends and family. Even though Penn State is responsible for you you can generally ask the coaches to hang out with friend or family after competition as long as you are back at a reasonable hour and make it back in time to be in the van home.The night after the competition my old teammates and I wandered around Detroit looking for a place to eat. Detroit iis a very hipsteresque place with not much happening for those uderage. Finding lunch with my PSU family the next day was proven successful though as we found a cute little hipster diner, the food was great and people were very friendly.
The van ride back was better than the ride there as we stopped for food and slept most of the way. All in all it was a fun and positive experience for my first PSU represented competition.
I won’t actually continue Bratislava as the last bit of the story is basically just my teammates, coaches and parents all having a giant snowball before we left. Word of advice – British and Russian people are extremely good at snowball fights so I wouldn’t challenge them if you’re inexperienced like me.
Today I am going to talk about my last tournament which was a collegiate tournament. There are two different circuits I compete on. The collegiate one where I fence for Penn State and a national team, one where I fight for World Team spots. I recently experienced my first ever collegiate meet at Temple University. The coaches choose four girls and guys for their weapon to represent PSU at this competition and I was chosen to go as a freshman which was pretty cool. In preparation for this competition I had to take an entire practice to fix all my weapons, body cords and any other fencing stuff I needed. This took so long because I had to completely take apart and build 2 new weapons so I would meet the correct amount of required working blades. We were also issued our PSU warmups and winter coats for this competition.
Since the women’s event was on a Saturday, the van that we took to Temple left Friday mid afternoon. This doesn’t sound bad but imagine eleven people plus our equipment in a tiny van for four hours. It’s hot and crammed and if you fall asleep your teammates will post it on their snapchat story, which I learned the hard way. The worst thing about this van ride though was what we had to wear. The coaches are very traditional so they always want us to “Dress for success” to tournaments which means your in a van in a dress, heels and full makeup for hours on end. It could definitely be worse but it isn’t the most fun I’ve had.
The competition itself was a PSU sweep with us medalling in everything but saber and taking three medals in epee, gold, silver and bronze. Immediately after the tournament was over the girls packed up their bags and left to go home, I stayed an extra night as my dad was in town. This was fun but also meant that I had to stay and watch our men’s team compete the next day and ride home with eight sweaty boys on the way home. This turned out to actually be pretty fun however I hope next time there will be other girls there with me.
While still trying to make Cadet team I traveled to Bratislava, Slovakia. When there all it did was snow and rain constantly with this dark sky 24/7. Most of the fencers there hated this weather however I didn’t mind it as I love stormy weather and snow is new to me being from Texas. The one major problem with the snow and rain however was it made it miserable to walk with your fencing bag to the venue and back and made it difficult to go places in town.
The hotel we stayed at was actually one of my favorite european hotels ever. It was small but the rooms were so modern and cozy and the restaurant had normal food. The shape of the rooms were interesting because when you would walk in the first thing you see is the beautiful view of the dark city of Bratislava, then to your right the bathroom was like a little box that connected to the bedroom through sliding doors. The coolest thing about the rooms in my opinion though was when you walked in, on the flatscreen T.V. it read “Welcome Shelly and Barbara VanBenthuysen”.
After checking in the fencing crew decided to go explore the town as we normally do so we headed to this outlet mall looking thing. We walked in by the food court and were greeted by several different Slovakian fast food chains and McDonalds. Instead of trying these exotic stands the moms opted to try the little restaurant on the far side of the court. The food there was amazing and while the parents finished their wine the athletes all went to explore the mall.We soon discovered that the mall itself was huge and partially underground. We started wandering from floor to floor and eventually found some weird pajama store where my friend and I bought matching onsies. While wandering around we bumped into the men’s foil team who was also there for the competition.
There wasn’t really anything to do in Bratislava so most of the time spent there was just us hanging out in a room until we had a team dinner or us trying to catch up on homework. Team dinners were fun because we would have all the US team attend and it became a fun way of relaxing before the tournament.
The competition venue was like a ten minutes away from the hotel walking but it was so cold that on competition day many people got taxis to the venue. We were stuck in the venue for the entire day (I was there from 9 in the morning to about 9 at night because I medalled) and when we finally got to leave there was a new batch of snow. I as a Texan was so excited by the snow that after finishing dinner went to play in it. My friend and I (she’s also Texan) went to the field across from the restaurant and made snow angels and had a mini snowball fight. It wasn’t until late when we were walking back did the major snow fight occur.
I will continue Bratislava in another blog.
As mentioned in my previous blog (sorry I feel like I start with that a lot) a group of us ventured into the city to escape our boredom on our day off. The first place we visited was an old church that was half underground, I wish I had the pictures to show because it was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. After we finished up at the church we wandered down the street until we stumbled upon a nice looking restaurant. We figured it was a safe bet as it was a french place not a traditional Helsinki restaurant. It was very quaint and nice, when you walked in you were led to the main dining hall which was surrounded with large windows and was looking out either onto the pier (Helsinki is a port city I believe) or a park located next door. We ordered new things to try and were pleasantly surprised by how good this tiny little place was.
After we ate we wandered onto the pier and explored the market place there. This market was set up very much like a farmer’s market however the vendors were mostly selling either tourist souvenir items or fish. We then passed through the pier and were surprised when we stumbled onto a castle, now a museum. We couldn’t resist and the next thing you know we were all taking pictures from the balcony over looking the bay from the castle. After we had finished exploring the random castle we found a little shopping area that included clothing shops, cafes, bookshops and even a Starbucks. My friend and I were instantly hooked and rushed to try Finland’s Starbucks hot chocolate. Connected to this Starbucks was one of the most beautiful bookstores I’ve ever experienced. The architecture was unique and there were lights strategically placed to make you feel at home. The most interesting part was that most of the books were in the native language, not english. This really should not have been that surprising but it’s just not something that one would think of before they saw it.
The group finished up at the shopping center and were informed of a team USA dinner that was being held and we figured we should go. When we arrived at the address it turned out to be a sports bar that was trying really hard to be American. I made the mistake of ordering pasta and it ended up being served with Pico De gallo, just a heads up thats not a good combination. I’m really not sure what Helsinki thinks americans eat but they are obviously misinformed.
All in all it was still a cool experience but I would not ask to go back to Helsinki either for a tournament or vacataion.