Epee de Groundhog celebrates 13 years

It was the 13th annual Scout Island Fencing Club’s Epee de Groundhog fencing competition Saturday at Mountview elementary.

Prince George’s Ivan Orlowsky (left) battles with Horsefly’s Joshua Yahnke (right)

Prince George’s Ivan Orlowsky (left) battles with Horsefly’s Joshua Yahnke (right)

It was the 13th annual Scout Island Fencing Club’s Epee de Groundhog fencing competition Saturday at Mountview elementary.

Close to 20 competitors from Williams Lake, Horsefly, Prince George and in between took up arms in three categories divided by age group in an attempt to be named champions.

The Epee de Groundhog or, the groundhog’s sword, has a longstanding tradition in Williams Lake, said SIFC president and coach Glen Burrill. The SIFC has an even longer history in the lakecity.

“We started fencing here in 1997, just me and a couple friends,” Burrill said. “We didn’t have a gym so we fenced in various places outside and one of the places we fenced at quite often was Scout Island.”

A couple of years later, just prior to the club being formed, they decided to name the fencing club after Scout Island.

Then in 2000, the B.C. Fencing Association approached the club to ask if they were sending a team to that year’s BC Winter Games in Quesnel.

“We got a team together of four young people specifically for that event and that was the beginning of our program working with young people,” he said. “From there we became certified coaches, and we just slowly started getting more young people.”

The club, which also has a satellite club in Horsefly, now sees multiple youth take part in its bi-weekly practices.

The Epee de Groundhog’s inaugural event began in 2001.

“And we just went from there,” Burrill said. “We’ve had a tournament every year. People have come and gone, we’ve seen kids get bigger and bigger and we’ve had a really neat bunch of people come to this. We’ve had people come from Prince George, Vernon, Kelowna, Vancouver and even some exchange students from Germany and Mexico.”

Fencing requires competitors to combine flexibility, speed and elusiveness. Each competitor’s suit is hooked up to an electrical current, which determines when points are scored when the epee is thrust and hits the suit. Each hit is worth one point.

At the Epee de Groundhog competitors took part in a five-point round robin, followed by a 15-point direct elimination showdown.

“It’s not always the strongest person or the biggest person who wins,” Burrill said. “It’s a real thinking game. It’s really exhausting. Fencing is an anaerobic sport so you’re constantly starting and stopping.”

In the under 12 division it was a one, two lakecity finish. Caden Nickel claimed gold, while Amelia Burrill took silver.

The under 17 division saw Williams Lake and area competitors, again, sweep the podium. Josh Swan nabbed gold, Justin VanderKraan won silver and Horsefly’s Joshua Yahnke and Hayley Thomas took bronze.

With nine competitors registered the open epee division was the largest. There, Horsefly’s Ivan Yahnke outlasted the rest of the competition to win the gold medal. VanderKraan claimed silver and Prince George’s Graeme McSweeney and Williams Lake’s Richard Rodelander won bronze.

In the open sabre division Ivan won gold, Rodelander took silver and McSweeney and Horsefly’s Siegfried Plamper won bronze.