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Fencing an exciting sport to club members

April 06, 1997

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - Allison Wheat, 17, stood with her sword at the ready, then advanced on her opponent with a whirling blade.

Their fencing foils clashed with metallic shrieks, the movements of the blades faster than some eyes can follow.

"She's aggressive out there," said Harry Phillips, 73, as he watched the young Shepherdstown woman fencing from the side of the gymnasium at Shepherdstown Elementary School.

Each week, about 20 members of the Fencing Club of Shepherdstown gather at the school to exchange passes with their swords under the tutelage of a fencing instructor, David Copeland, 25, of Winchester, Va.

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"I was just fascinated by the sport," Wheat said later. "I thought I'd try it and I loved it. It's a very strategic sport. Not only does it require the exercise of your physical ability, but it works your mind because you have to be able to anticipate what your opponent is going to do."

Phillips fenced while attending college at the University of Virginia at Roanoke in the 1940s, but he had not stayed with it.

He started fencing again in recent years, however. "I got interested watching the pirate pictures as a kid," Phillips said.

He likes it still because of "the romantic aspect of it and, of course, the physical activity. It's a wonderful aerobic exercise."

Dr. Jerry Duwel, 52, of Shepherdstown, said the club started last fall, meeting weekly on Wednesday and Thursday nights.

"It's an interesting hobby," Duwel said. "It's kind of like an athletic chess game, somewhat physically demanding. You have to be in above average physical shape."

The instructor shows them how to attack and parry until they can touch their opponent on scoring areas of the body. The fencers wear protective body gear and metal helmets.

"The moves and countermoves are the fun part of it," Duwel said. "It's an awful lot of fun."

Eventually, the club hopes to compete against other clubs in the area such as one in Winchester, Va.

"It's being able to face one person, and the better man always wins," Copeland said. "There's nothing like the excitement of facing another person with a blade in your hand."

Phillips said anyone interested in joining the club can call him at 1-304-876-2906.

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