Five Vail Valley locals qualify for USA Fencing national championships |

Five Vail Valley locals qualify for USA Fencing national championships

These five local fencers qualified for the USA Fencing Nationals. They are, top row from left: John Wills, Mark Barandy and James Coot” Overcash. Kneeling Don Watson and Debra Swain.
Special to the Daily |

VAIL — Five local athletes qualified to be part of the largest fencing tournament in history.

Vail Valley locals John Wills, Mark Barandy and James “Coot” Overcash, Don Watson and Debra Swain qualified in the veterans division for the 2017 USA Fencing National Championships and July Challenge in Salt Lake City.

The five locals qualified at the regionals in Denver, where they put four people on the podium, Watson said.

They’ll be among 4,222 fencers from 47 states and 428 clubs. With 8,877 entries approved for the event, the tournament could surpass the 12-day 2014 USA Fencing National Championships as the largest fencing tournament in history, says USA Fencing.

If the locals do well enough in Salt Lake City, then they’ll advance to the world championships, Watson said.

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Local club training hard

The local club runs the gamut from adults to high school students. They took a group of high school fencers to the nationals in 2012.

Fencing, jokes Watson, is not complicated.

“It’s pretty easy. Hit the other person and don’t get hit,” Watson laughed.

It can be more complicated. During the regional finals, Overcash and Watson had to compete in saber and epee at the same time.

“It’s like doing two cage matches at the same time. Compete, change equipment, run to the other venue and compete some more. It was exhausting and it was fun,” Watson said.

It worked out well for them. Both Overcash and Watson qualified for nationals in the saber and epee events in the 60 and older category. Swain finished second in the regionals to qualify for epee in the 60 and older category, and Wills finished second in saber to qualify for the nationals in the 70 and older category.

The locals train at Battle Mountain High School from 11 a.m to 1 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, and anyone is welcome, Watson said.

“That’s open to anyone at any level. You don’t have to know anything to get started,” Watson said.

The USA Fencing National Championships features individual competition in categories from youth 10 to veteran older than 70, with athletes ranging from ages 8 to 94. The July Challenge includes Division I, Junior and Cadet individual events, as well as a senior team competition. Both tournaments include events in all three weapons: epee, foil and saber. Epee is French for “sword.”

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or

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