Share Your Story: Susan (Rieck) Finkle
Susan (Rieck) Finkle
I was a Northwestern fencer at a time when the program was undergoing huge changes. In my first year, we were a varsity club, which meant we could fence other Big Ten schools, but we got minimal funding and support from the university. We got up at the crack of dawn on a competition day and drove ourselves, in our own cars, to Wisconsin or somewhere else to compete for the day. Then, exhausted, we would drive home at the end of the day. The end of my freshman year, we received [varsity] team status and really celebrated the change. We were able to travel further, use school vans to drive to events and even had money to stay overnight in hotels.
My best memories of college are of the fencing team. The men's and women's teams practiced, traveled and competed together. I met my husband of 23 years on the team. Many other marriages have come out of the team over the years. The long hours of practice and competition brought everyone on the team together, and many great friendships were formed. My husband and I still remind each other of stories from the team, whether it was dealing with a truck dropping potatoes out of the back at 2 in the morning on the Dan Ryan while driving back from a competition, or a silly thing someone used to say that we still repeat all these years later.
I will always be grateful for my opportunities to fence at Northwestern. My chances to prove my abilities and to lead the women's team my senior year have given me a lot of confidence and self-assurance. The team gave me a place to call home for my four years of school and greatly enriched my college experience.
My best competition was a weekend in New Jersey my sophomore year when we went to compete in the national women's collegiate competition. Most of the other fencers were from the east coast from schools we had never met before. It was exciting to meet and compete against so many new and excellent fencers. The competition ran 2 days: first a team event and then an individual event. I have never before, or since, fenced so much in such a short time. Every win was exciting, and I ended up placing better then I could have expected going into the event. My only regret was the number of losses I had that were only by 1 point. If only a couple of those had gone the other way, I would have placed much higher. The day we arrived in New Jersey, I stepped off the edge of the sidewalk and badly twisted my ankle. I did the entire competition with my ankle taped up and in a fair amount of pain. It was still the most memorable event in my fencing career.
Fencing at Northwestern has changed a lot since I was there. My husband and I still try to make the annual homecoming fencing get-together every year. Big Ten fencing disappeared shortly after I graduated, when Illinois dissolved their team, but the Northwestern team has continued to grow in both size and skills. They have been nationally recognized for years, and I am proud to be part of that legacy.