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Four Corners Fencing Club seeks new members, equipment to keep dueling

Effort under way to replace sabres that work with electronic scoring system
Maddie Tharp, 16, left, and Kaleah Bartlett, 16, both with Four Corners Fencing Club, fence last week at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4031 in Durango. The club is raising money for new equipment, and it is always interested in new members. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

The Four Corners Fencing Club is in need of an update – to its equipment, that is.

Christopher Bartlett, who hosts the club three nights a week at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4031, said the equipment is aging out.

Bartlett has started a GoFundMe page (https://bit.ly/3xgi7qJ) to raise money for new épées (foils, sabres, swords) that work with an electronic scoring system, gloves and more equipment.

The fencing club is free for members to take part in and accepts donations. Bartlett took over about two years ago, he said. But fencing materials wear out quickly, which is why he set up a GoFundMe to keep fencing members active and hopefully grow the sport locally.

Sam Burbey and Maddie Tharp, 16, both with Four Corners Fencing Club, practice last week at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4031 in Durango. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Bartlett is seeking to raise $1,000 through the GoFundMe campaign. As of Monday, he had already raised $746.

“A lot of the gear is old,” he said. “And the only real danger to fencing is if swords break. If swords break they become sharp, which is not good.”

Older blades are more likely to break, so Bartlett is retiring two épées.

Four Corners Fencing Club uses two types of épées, which Bartlett said he calls either “wet” or “dry” weapons. “Wet” weapons are capable of being attached to a scoring machine that detects successful hits and assigns points accordingly. “Dry” weapons aren’t compatible with the electronic scoring machine.

Bartlett is interested in acquiring more “wet” weapons for use in classes.

“We’ve got three,” he said. “But sometimes we have like 26 students, so we need more.”

Electronic épées cost about $70, he said, so he is aiming to purchase at least five or six more in addition to the three he has.

Four Corners Fencing Club was handed down to Bartlett by Jennifer Thurston, who Bartlett said was a pentathlon coach. Pentathlons contain four consecutive events, with one of them being fencing and others being horsemanship or equestrianship, running and shooting, Bartlett said.

One of Bartlett’s students, Sam Burbey, 18, is helping him run the club in the evenings. Bartlett said they’re in the process of reinvigorating the club and are hoping that many new students begin attending classes.

“I’m more interested in having more students come to the club, really,” Bartlett said. “We’re trying to grow it because more fencers makes it more fun.”

Kaleah Bartlett, 16, with Four Corners Fencing Club, practices last week at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4031 in Durango. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

He said the fencing club experiences a “big washout rate,” with about one out of every 10 kids dropping out of the club.

“The more kids we get, the more chance of having more fencers, really,” Bartlett said.

Four Corners Fencing Club has a sister club in Denver called Cheyenne Fencing Center, which is run by Elaine Charris, a three-time Olympic silver medalist who has competed in fencing for more than 20 years.

The Durango-based fencing club and its members are affiliated with the U.S. Fencing Association, and Bartlett has been through safe sports training and is qualified to be a fencing coach.

“We’re an affiliated club now, which is awesome,” he said. “It means we can take our students to sanctioned U.S. fencing tournaments.”

While the club is free to participate in, Bartlett said he occasionally asks members to donate a couple dollars here and there at some sessions. In his GoFundMe description, he says he pays for much of the program out of his own pocket.

Four Corners Fencing invites everyone ages 10 and older to attend sessions from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 3 to 6 p.m. Sundays.


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