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Douglas County

Young fencers get parried away

Douglas County kids’ swordplay takes them to national tournament

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A group of youths recently went to the largest fencing tournament in the history of the sport, but it was more important to their coach that they come home with happy memories than medals.

“The most rewarding part is just seeing their growth,” said Elliott Clinton, head coach at the Fencing Academy of Parker. “It’s not only about seeing them grow as fencers. It’s about seeing them grow as people. I try to teach them more than fencing. I try to be a role model.”

Speaking in short, brief sentences that mimic the thrusts and parries employed as fencers practice behind him, Clinton explained that the eight fencers from the academy may not have won any hardware, but they came home with something more important.

“These kids put their heart and soul into this,” Clinton said. “There’s no better feeling in this world than bringing a child to a tournament and to see all you’ve worked for with them over hours and hours and see it click.”

The United States Summer Fencing Championships tournament, in Salt Lake City, Utah, ran from July 1-10 and attracted more than 8,400 fencers from across the United States. Clinton’s students, ranging in age from 9 to 16, qualified either at a tournament in May or by accruing points in regional tournaments throughout the season.

Rachel Buhay, a 12-year-old fencer from Castle Rock, said the thrill of the experience was worth the training.

“I like the competition,” she said. “It teaches you to never give up. I like the competition of it, and I like beating the boys, they get really mad.”

Foxfield’s Cliona Johnson, 16, has been studying under Clinton for about 2 ½ years. For her, going to the tournament was an extension of the reason she comes to every practice.

It’s an individual sport, but without a doubt, the fencers at the academy are a team.

“For people who regularly stab each other, there’s a surprising amount of camaraderie,” she said.

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