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En garde! Allez! Durango hosts fencing tournament

Club hosts first sanctioned fencing competition
Kaleah Bartlett, left, and Sam Burbey compete Saturday during the Four Corners Fracas fencing tournament. The competition was the first sanctioned fencing tournament to take place in Durango. (Cody Olivas/Durango Herald)

The Four Corners Fencing Club hosted the first-ever sanctioned fencing tournament in Durango on Saturday at the VFW.

Club member and Durangoan Sam Burbey, 19, said typically if they want to compete in a tournament, they have to go to Santa Fe or Denver.

“It’s wonderful,” Burbey said about hosting a tournament. “It allows us to get ratings and then we can have better tournaments.”

Greg Domashovetz of the Roaring Fork Fencing Club helped the club host the tournament by putting on a judging clinic Friday, helping the local fencers become licensed judges.

On Saturday, the competitors used “epee” swords, which is one of the three Olympic weapons, along with sabres and foils. The swords have electronic sensors on the tips and the fencer who successfully “touches” their opponent first, anywhere on their bodies, with their epee gets a point. If they touch each other at the same time, its called a double and both fencers get a point. The bouts consist of three, 3-minute periods and the first fencer to score 15 points wins.

Kaleah Bartlett duels with Amelia Fogleman during the Four Corners Fracas fencing tournament on Saturday. (Cody Olivas/Durango Herald)

“It looks violent, but it’s a cerebral sport,” said the club’s coach, Chris Bartlett. “It’s chess with your body. Everything is about timing, distance, speed and trying to manipulate your opponent into doing what you want them to do.”

The fencers also wear about 13 pounds of gear made of Kevlar to protect themselves.

“It certainly protects you, but you do get bruises,” Burbey said. “We say, ‘if you become a better fencer, you get hurt less.’”

Saturday began with an E-and-under mixed epee tournament, for fencers ranked E or below.

Colter Squires of Eagle Valley High School beat Shea Davis of Four Corners in the finals to place first. Khalea Bartlett and Madalynn Tharp tied for third.

Many of the fencers then competed in the senior open mixed epee tournament, which began with pool play to determine the brackets. After pool play, the tournament became single elimination.

In the quarterfinals, Squires and Davis had a rematch and the two had a tight, back and forth bout. Squires, however, prevailed. Kaleah Bartlett gave her dad, Chris, a challenge, but Chris finished on top. Burbey, meanwhile, beat Tharp and Domashovetz beat Caitlyn Tivy.

In the semis, Burbey and Domashovetz were pretty even. Burbey took a decent lead before Domashovetz rallied at the end, but he was unable to catch Burbey.

Chris Bartlett, meanwhile, was aggressive in his bout against Squires and scored several quick points to win 15-9.

Burbey and Bartlett, both of whom are C-rated, then squared off in the finals.

Burbey said they end up facing each other in a lot of tournaments, in addition to practices. “We pretty much know what the other does, so it’s all about timing and the strategy of it,” Burbey said.

Bartlett took a quick 5-1 lead. Back to back doubles kept the margin close, and Burbey closed within three points of Bartlett late, at 13-10, but Bartlett got the last two points to win the tournament.

The Four Corners Fencing Club is a nonprofit organization and is free to join and participate.

It meets three times a week at the VFW, at 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and at 3 p.m. Sundays. After the tournament, however, it might take this Sunday off.

Bartlett is a veteran and board member at the VFW, and the local post allows the club to use its facility at no cost.

“That’s why we’re able to offer it for free,” Bartlett said.

He said if people, 12 and older, want to try out the sport, they can simply show up when they’re practicing and all they need to bring is tennis shoes and pants.

“It’s open and it’s free and we’d love to have some new fencers come try it,” Bartlett said. “It’s a great sport for after school. It teaches discipline, patience, critical thinking and it’s super fun.”

“It’s wonderful having more fencers,” Burbey said. “It makes everyone better and we have more fun.”

More information at https://www.fourcornersfencingclub.com/

Madalynn Tharp, left, dodges an attack from Sam Burbey during the Four Corners Fracas fencing tournament on Saturday in Durango. The competition was the first sanctioned fencing tournament to take place in Durango. (Cody Olivas/Durango Herald)
Chris Bartlett, left, and Sam Burbey square off in the finals of the Four Corners Fracas fencing tournament on Saturday at the VFW in Durango. Bartlett ended up winning the competition. (Cody Olivas/Durango Herald)