Williams Lake’s Cole Turner (left) and Prince George’s Dan Kumpula fence during the 14th Annual Épée de Groundhog Saturday at Mountview elementary.

Williams Lake’s Cole Turner (left) and Prince George’s Dan Kumpula fence during the 14th Annual Épée de Groundhog Saturday at Mountview elementary.

Épée de Groundhog a slice for fencers

The groundhog in Williams Lake isn’t quite like his peers around North America.

The groundhog in Williams Lake isn’t quite like his peers around North America.

This one emerged from its burrow (one day early), for the 14th consecutive year, brandishing an épée, ready for battle, as the Scout Island Fencing Club hosted its Épée de Groundhog fencing competition Saturday at Mountview elementary.

“Because the first one was on Groundhog Day, we didn’t want to take things too seriously. That was a big part of it [the name],” said Glen Burrill, president of the SIFC.

“We have a pretty good sense of humour at the club and that really just expressed our way of seeing it and people have taken to it. It’s worked well.”

Close to 20 fencers competing in four separate divisions — under 13 épée, cadet épée, open épée and open sabre — arrived from Prince George, Horsefly and Williams Lake for a full day of competition.

“The matches were really close,” Burrill said.

“The last one [in open sabre] was by one point. It was 15-14, and when it’s close like that people really appreciate those matches because it goes right to the very end and their skills are very well matched. It makes for an exciting match.”

In the open sabre division it was Horsefly’s Ivan Yahnke overcoming Prince George’s Graeme McSweeney for the title. Williams Lake’s Cole Turner took the bronze medal, with Justin Van der Kraan in fourth place.

The open épée division, once again, saw Ivan use his speed, technique and skill to his advantage to defeat William Ironside in the final.

Joshua Swan picked up the bronze medal, with McSweeney taking fourth.

The cadet épée class saw Van der Kraan, also of Williams Lake, win the gold medal, beating 150 Mile’s Ryan Haskins in the event final. Turner and Swan finished third and fourth, respectively.

And finally, in the under-13 épée division it was Turner claiming the gold, with Josh Yahnke winning a silver medal.

“It’s just a lot of fun,” Burrill said.

“It’s really exciting and it’s one of the very few combat sports we have.”

For anyone interested in trying the sport the club meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Mountview elementary gymnasium.

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