May 1, 2013 by conteconfidential
When his collegiate fencing career came to an end last year, Peter Souders wasn’t ready to give up the sport that he loves. So, this year, the former Boston College fencing captain has made the rounds on the international circuit as a member of USA Fencing. In between tournaments, Souders caught up with Conte Confidential to talk about his experiences this year, his future in the sport, his time at BC and much more.
1) How do you feel about the season as a whole, both from a personal and team standpoint? Do you think it went well? Are you happy with it?
My individual season this year has been a rush. Between making a pair of final-eight finishes at the North American Cups, reaching a top-10 ranking and getting to travel as a part of the USA team on the international circuit, it’s been amazing. In terms of being happy with it, I still have a pair of international events left in the year: this weekend in Chicago and three weeks from now in Warsaw, Poland. So I’ll have to see how those events go, but so far, I’m thrilled. As for the BC team, it was a mixed bag.
Obviously, Olivia Adragna was fantastic this season, and it’s going to be exciting to watch her for the next three years. And the rest of that freshman class look like they will produce at a high level as well. I think there were seven freshmen starting (out of 18 total spots) this year. And they all had strong seasons. Combine that with the progression of sophomore epee fencer Cara Hall and I think there is a lot to be excited about, both from this year, and moving forward.
On the other hand, the season had a rough ending. Senior sabre fencer Olivia Curry tore her ACL in one of the last meets of the year, and Cara, Hanmin Lee, and Pat Riley all barely missed joining Adragna at the NCAA championships. So while there was a lot of progress, and there is a lot of promise with this team, I definitely have some feelings of coming up just a little short at the end.
2) You were named Northeast Intercollegiate Fencing Conference Fencer of the Year for two consecutive seasons, as a junior in 2011 and as a senior last year. What did that mean to you?
It’s pretty crazy when I think back about it, and I look at the other people who were in our conference and the awards and recognitions they received during their fencing careers. To have been able to end up at the top of that group not once, but twice, that’s an amazing feeling.
3) What were your experiences as captain of BC’s team? What was your best experience as captain and worst?
Being a captain of a fencing team is difficult because of the number of different characters on the team and the different backgrounds of all the fencers. Some people come out of high school having learned from a traditional European coach, who typically cracks the whip at their students pretty hard and demands rigorous training schedules. Others come from more laidback settings where the coach pushes less and allows the students to find their own way. Some fencers have a lot of competitive experience; some have only competed in high school. So if you want to get the most out of everyone (and, thus, the most from the team) you have to figure out exactly how to motivate each person separately. There is definitely no “one size fits all” way to push the team. Looking back on it, I’m very thankful for having my co-captains there to work with and keep the team moving forward.
My best experience was watching the B and C strips of my sabre squad, Devin Midgley and Denis McGovern, grow as fencers and competitors. Working with them every day and seeing their progress was awesome.
My worst experience was going to early morning lift. Captains are supposed to have the best energy and be leaders, but I hate mornings and I really hate lifting weights in the mornings. Again, thank god for Brian Like and Gabi Goode, my co-captains, because they could fill that role a lot better than I.
Peter Souders (right) practicing before the 2012 NCAA Fencing Championships (photo credit: Chelsea Rosenbauer)
4) You’ve had some amazing success this year. Was there a highlight?
The biggest highlight for me was being able to wear my BC warm-ups on the podium for a North American Cup. I might have graduated, but I still feel a very strong tie to this school, and I’m proud that I could put our logo in a prominent view.
5) You fenced at the NCAA national championships last year. Can you describe that?
I fenced at the 2012 National Championships as a senior, my fourth consecutive trip to that event. The NCAA championship is a grind. The format is different than any other event in the world, and it involves a lot of mental toughness just to stay competitive. But it’s a great thing to be able to say you were there. To be honest, it did not end the way I was hoping. My goal was to make the All-American team, and I ended up falling just two victories short of that goal. Since that was one of my biggest aspirations coming into college, it was a bitter pill to swallow.
But my parents were there and were very supportive, and Syd Fadner, BC’s coach, sat down with me and talked about how this was just a step in a journey, and how the end of college didn’t mean the end of fencing. She said there were bigger goals and accomplishments out there and that missing one didn’t mean I had to give up on others. I think that talk had a lot to do with how this season went, because after the school year ended, instead of dwelling on NCAAs, I started working towards the USFA [US Fencing Association] season this year.
6) Going to Athens must have been an incredible experience. Can you elaborate on that a bit?
Athens was amazing. Getting to go to these international events is an awesome experience because you get to compete at the highest level, represent your country and see some pretty cool cities in the process. So far in my (admittedly brief) international career, Athens has been my best event. I went 5-1 in the seeding round, which was the first time I had ever done better than 3-3 in that group. In the elimination round, I lost to a Korean fencer, which placed me 66th out of 176 fencers. That was my best finish internationally by a long shot, and now I’m looking to move even higher in the next few weeks.
7) After four years of fencing for BC, is there a memory that sticks out for you? Is there something that you’re going to miss in particular?
There are a bunch of memories that stick out, and I could talk about stories from BC fencing all day. But the two best are probably meeting my girlfriend of four years, Ali [LeTendre], who fenced epee for BC a year ahead of me, and being named the Outstanding Scholar-Athlete Award for the senior class in 2012. Standing in front of the whole athletic community to be acknowledged is a huge honor for anyone, but I think it’s even more amazing coming from a small, less-publicized sport like fencing. Winning that award gave me the validation that I had represented this school well, and made them proud to have me as an athlete. After four years, there really isn’t a better feeling than that. As for Ali, she has been amazing. She’s cheered for me, supported me and been an amazing travel partner during these international tournaments. It’s a sappy thing to include, but my fencing experience here would have been totally different without her.
8) What are your future plans, both in fencing and in general?
I’m not sure about future plans for fencing yet. That will involve a lot of thinking and decision making after the season is done in a month. For now, I’m just enjoying an amazing ride and touring some countries I definitely did not think I would be seeing prior to this year. Outside of fencing, I put the job search on hold while I was traveling this winter and spring, but by June I will have started that process again, and I am also going to start looking into graduate school for engineering. It’s a lot less glamorous than traveling all over Europe, but I have a feeling that, by the time I get back from Poland, I will want to have a break for a while.
Interview by John Grosso