Days after converging upon Payne Whitney for its first practice in nearly six months, the Yale fencing team found itself thrust into competition with some of the nation’s best. While the Bulldogs showed mettle against some of the country’s heavyweights at Penn State, most seemed relieved that the tournament was regarded as a “warm-up” and meaningless in Ivy standings.

The men and women Elis both competed in the Penn State Garret Open in State College over the weekend. The tournament, where fencers compete as individuals, is the symbolic start of a season that stretches well into next spring, but does not have consistent weekly play until after Thanksgiving. Manager Carly Guss ’06 led the charge for the women, nailing down 14th in the epee. Sophomore Steve Miller ’08 was the frontrunner for the men’s delegation, which fared poorer, finishing 27th in the epee.

Women’s captain Isadora Botwinick ’06 said the tournament took place several weeks earlier than usual this year, which may have played to the Bulldogs’ disadvantage.

“The Penn State tournament usually comes in November, so this was a lot earlier than before,” she said. “So it could be little bit of a handicap for our team, but since it’s so early its not as much an indicator for the whole season.”

The weekend’s tournament was notable because of the unique set of programs that compete every year. Eli fencers met everyone from Ivy rivals Princeton and Cornell to rarely-seen powerhouses Notre Dame and the hometown Nittany Lions.

Guss said fencing such a variety of teams is an interesting way to begin the season.

“It’s a good opportunity for us to fence other schools that we might not usually see until Nationals,” she said. “Ohio, North Carolina are there, and it’s good to finally fence some other fencers not on our team.”

The Garret Open is structured so that all fencers compete in two opening pools before the top performers square off in direct elimination rounds. On the women’s side Saturday, Guss placed the highest of any Yalie, surviving both pools and finishing 14th overall in the saber. Two other Eli women, Erin Frey ’08 and Genevieve Tauxe ’07, fared well through the opening rounds, placing 19th and 32nd, respectively.

In women’s epee, Botwinick’s 17th-place performance was especially notable because she was in unfamiliar territory.

“Isadora did really well, especially since she switched from foil to epee this year,” Guss said. “She just missed the cut.”

The men followed on Sunday, but their performance was resoundingly less heartening. Miller led the pack in the epee division, finishing 27th overall. Epee captain John Beski ’07 was on his heels in 28th, and George London ’08 rounded out the pack at 32nd.

Overall, Beski said the weekend was a letdown.

“Rather awful time for the epee team,” Beski said. “There are a lot of things we can work on. Partially [our finish] was because of the format as the tournament, I won twice as many as I lost, but two of the bouts came at strategically awful times and I finished in the bottom half.”

Chie-Yu Lin ’06 placed 35th out of 57 in men’s foil. Kawing Cho ’07, James Yin ’07 and Michael Aboodi ’07 finished in the lower third at 42nd, 50th and 56th.

The men’s saber results were equally frustrating, with captain Christopher Sinay ’06 managing a 31st place finish out of the 44 competitors. Bradley Broadhead ’08 and Max Blum ’09 finished slightly lower in the field, at 35th and 38th, respectively.