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Swashbuckling fencers descend upon Rifle High School

Swashbuckling fencers descend upon Rifle High School
Rifle High School fencer in competition

The art of fencing has often served as a dance of steel and strategy, captivating audiences on the silver screen for generations. From the swashbuckling duels of Errol Flynn in "The Adventures of Robin Hood" to the high-stakes clashes of Inigo Montoya and the Dread Pirate Roberts in "The Princess Bride,"  audiences have been thrilled with powerful moments of swordplay that have left us longing for adventure. Beyond the dazzling choreography and dramatic flair seen on television and in the movies, fencing is a sport steeped in tradition, technique, and a rich history that extends far beyond the realm of make-believe. 

Rifle High School may seem a pedestrian venue for such climatic efforts, but last weekend, fencers from around the state and region clashed their foils and épées as RHS hosted a small, regional fencing tournament. 

Two Bears battled for bragging rights. Rifle freshman Marcos Marquez is part of Rifle High School’s fencing club and this was his first tournament.

He was surprised that Rifle High School offered such a club, and was anxious to give it a try.

“I've been seeing the sport on many TV shows and I just wanted to try it. This is a great chance,” said Marcos.

He added that though he is new to the sport, he can see himself getting better every day.

“At first when I first grabbed a blade, I didn't know how to use it or how to hold it, so I just had to learn, of course. Basically, the more I practiced, the better I have become.”

The Rifle High School Fencing Club meets Tuesdays after school and novice fencers should compete in at least four competitions a year. As their skill improves, they could attend as many as 30 tournaments a year said club sponsor Aaron Wall, who also fenced in the local competition.

Wall added that like any sport, there is an investment in equipment and that the club has some equipment to get beginners started and some funds to help with entry-level membership with the United States Fencing Association. A full complement of equipment including blade, jacket, mask, and gloves can run about $400.

Luz Marquez, Marcos' mother, said she was initially apprehensive about her son fencing.

“At first I was scared, because I thought it was sharp blades, and it’s not. I saw him very excited, so now I'm excited with him,” she explained as she watched her son battle from the sidelines amid the incessant, and varying electronic beeps indicating different dispositions of fencers across the floor. “I think it's really good and he's really excited.”

Wall, who has been fencing for about 30-years, has been offering the club off and on since 2010. He’s had fencers earn spots on the Junior Olympics team, an honor he also holds. 

“I started in Souix City, Iowa. I had a very kind coach who was patient with me,” Wall explained. He wants to extend that same opportunity to students at Rifle High School.

“Fencing offers a unique sport that draws from a demographic that values:  intense individual competition, historical background, intense physical workouts, mental activity, social connections, and reading.  I figure if it helps even one kid have a more interesting and fulfilling school experience, then it is worth it.”