Making a point

Oldham County fencer Reese
is at the top of her class

Fencers from the area learn the skill at Louisville club

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

(October 2006) – At just 16 years old, Haley Reese has achieved national recognition for a sport often referred to as a game of “physical chess.” Through fencing, she has gained a tight hold on an extremely mental sport.

Haley Reese

Photo provided

Haley Reese recently
competed on a National
level in Chicago.

After moving to Oldham County from Anchorage, Ala., Reese picked up a newspaper and read an article about fencing. She decided this was the recreational sport for her, and she has been fencing for the last five years.
Fencing has its roots in ancient combat. Around 1200 BC, Egyptians began fencing for sport. During the Renaissance era, it gained a reputation as a high art form.
“Fencing is definitely a game of tactics,” said Reese. “You have to give false impressions to your opponent” in order to outsmart them and win.
The objective of fencing is for two competitors face off in a bout. They compete to score points on each other with their weapons. To beat an opponent, a fencer must use bladework, footwork, strategy and tactics.
What Reese likes best about fencing is a combination of qualities. The intensity of the sport makes it appealing to her. “It is you versus your opponent. It’s very personal,” said Reese.
Fencing is also a fast and emotional sport. “If you win, you win because you deserve it,” Reese said. “If you lose, you only have yourself to blame.”
“Haley is very dedicated as far as practicing goes,” said her mother, Michelle Reese. Having twin sisters who are athletic was an encouragement to Reese to try her hand at sports.
Reese practices at the Louisville Fencing Center five days a week, two to three hours a day, said her mother. “It is a very easy sport to get into,” said Michelle Reese of this highly competitive recreational sport.
When first getting into fencing, equipment is provided. An introduction course generally lasts once a week for eight weeks. If you remain with it, you must buy the equipment, said Michelle Reese.

Haley Reese

Photo provided

Haley Reese spars with an opponent
at the fencing club in Louisville.

Regular fencing equipment consists of weapons, masks, jackets and gloves. It has been included in Olympic programming since 1896. Reese practices every week at the Louisville Fencing Center, located at 1401 W. Muhammad Ali Blvd., Louisville.
“The (center) is the most successful competitive fencing facility in the state of Kentucky,” said center volunteer Michael Gauss. His own daughter, Samantha Gauss, is also a fencer.
Fencing appeals to a child or adult on a more individual level rather than as a team sport, said Gauss. “Fencing requires some real attention to technique,” he said.
Reese traveled to Chicago on May 27 to compete against many of the top national fencers at the Hutchison Open, hosted by the Chicago Athletic Association Fencers’ Club. She placed first overall in the mixed (men and women) competition, which featured 41 fencers from as far away as New York and Nebraska.
In July 2006, she went on to compete in the National Championships held in Atlanta. She placed sixth in her age group (known as cadets, ages 17-under), and 13th in the age group above her (ages 20-under).
“I’m very competitive when fencing. I have to prove myself and what I can do,” said this Oldham County High School senior. Reese has had the same coach since beginning her career in fencing five years ago.
Leszck Stawicki formerly ran the Polish National Team from 1973 to 1990, and participated in six Olympics as the Polish coach. He has been with the Louisville Fencing Center for 16 years. His athletes have won 17 National Championships. He now participates in the U.S. National Paraplegic Program.
“A coach always wants to be very proud of their students,” said Stawicki. He called Reese an exceptional student, who works extremely hard to hone her abilities.
Certain skills are needed to excel at fencing. Stawicki cited bravery as topping the list. “You have to know how much to put into it and never give up,” he said.
Many colleges have extended official visits to Reese, based on her outstanding merits as a fencer. She has been invited to visit Penn State University and the U.S. Air Force Academy, said Michelle Reese.
Fencing classes are currently being offered through the Oldham County Family YMCA in Buckner by the Louisville Fencing Center, said YMCA Executive Director Peggy Kilgore. Classes are limited to 18 students and filled up fast, said Kilgore.
A new class will begin in January 2007. Youth classes are for ages 6-12 and adult classes for ages 13-older. Equipment is provided. Cost is $85 for YMCA members and $100 for nonmembers.

• For more information on the YMCA classes, contact Peggy Kilgore at (502) 222-9358. For more information on the Louisville Fencing Center, contact Michael Gauss at (502) 419-4137.

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