Eight Blue Devils will not spend Fall Break sleeping in and relaxing. Instead, they will travel to Virginia to participate in a national fencing championship.

Even though regular-season fencing action does not start until January, Duke head coach Alex Beguinet and eight of his fencers will hit the road this weekend to compete in the 2015 October North American Cup, which runs Friday through Monday at the Greater Richmond Convention Center in Richmond, Va. The four-day tournament is open to any United States Fencing Association competitive member and any foreign fencer with a current license from the International Fencing Federation.

“[The tournament] is going to give us an idea about where [our fencers] are right now,” Beguinet said. “I know it’s a long way until January but time goes very fast. We’re going to be able to see the people who are going after a few weeks of work here and what we can do for them. It will give us the temperature of the fencers.”

The squad traveling to Richmond consists mostly of underclassmen—two freshmen and four sophomores will join senior épée Ted Cho and junior foil Alexander Merriman.

The épée category has five Blue Devil representatives—Cho, freshmen Camille Esnault and Bryn Hammarberg and sophomores Dakota Nollner and Alec Ajnsztajn.

Sophomore Jan Maceczek—who won a bronze medal at the ACC Championships last year—and Merriman will participate in the foil category. Sophomore Haley Fisher—who ended the 2014 season with 46-12 regular-season record—is the only Duke saber competing in the tournament.

As the lone senior among the Blue Devils hitting the road this weekend, Cho said he is ready to step into a leadership role this season.

“I’ve been here for a while so I know the ins and outs of how to train effectively, how to schedule classes, how to get the most out of the Duke experience,” Cho said. “I look forward to being a guide and helping the freshmen and all the other underclassmen to get a better understanding of how they should function as a part of the team and as a part of the Duke community.”

The Blue Devils are including yoga as part of their training and had a 40-minute session before departing for Richmond.

“It is no surprise that there are lots of sore muscles and bruised egos right after a competition day,” Fisher said. “Yoga is itself so relaxing that it helps take your mind off of ‘Who did I just lose to?’ or ‘How am I going do better this next time?’ It’s really like a space to forget.”

Seven Duke fencers competed in the NCAA Championships last spring, the most in the program’s history. The women’s squad ended the season ranked 10th in the nation and the men’s team was slated ninth.

“[This 2015 October North American Cup] is a good time for us to go out and fence people that we wouldn’t normally have the chance to fence during the season,” Cho said. “It gives us a way to evaluate the preparation for the season and it provides us with the opportunity to see how far we have progressed since the beginning of the school year.”