NEW HAVEN – On Saturday, Nov. 14, the Yale fencing teams
participated in the Dernell Every Open, held in the seventh floor
fencing hall of the Payne Whitney Gymnasium. The annual event
brings together current fencers with alums to compete against one
another in a friendly tournament. It is organized by the Yale
Fencing Association, and serves as a fundraiser for the team, as
well as a gathering for alumni/ae. Though winners are crowned for
each weapon category, for both men and women, the true focus of the
tournament is to give current fencers and alums a chance to get
together for a friendly day of fencing and camaraderie. The Dernell
Every Open also allows alums an opportunity to reconnect with each
other and with beloved head coach Henry Harutunian.
The tournament is named after Dernell Every ’28, who was one of the most accomplished alums of the Yale fencing program. While at Yale, Every was a national fencing champion and in 1927 and 1928, he became the first to win consecutive undisputed Intercollegiate Fencing Association foil titles. After leaving Yale, Every was a member of the US Olympic fencing teams in 1928, 1932 and 1948. As a member of the 1932 Olympic team, Every won a bronze medal. From 1928 to 1951, Every won three national individual foil titles and was a member of 10 national championship teams, competing for the Fencer's Club of New York, then for the New York Athletic Club.
The tournament has been held in Every’s honor and as a fundraising event since 1971. Former Yale fencer Steve Blum ’74, the current president of the Yale Fencing Association, who served as the tournament director, estimated that the event had helped raise thousands of dollars to support the Yale fencing program.
“As always, it was great to see the alumni return to the 7th floor to fence with us,” said men’s senior captain Andrew Holbrook. “We had a lot of good fencing during the day and it was an opportunity for us to tune up some before the Penn State Open Tournament next weekend. Tom Bell and John Gurrieri fenced especially well in their events which were the largest and strongest of the day. We are looking forward to capitalizing on the energy from today over the coming week of practice.”
On the women’s side, senior captain Rebecca Moss was equally enthusiastic about tournament, and its aid in preparing for the upcoming season.
“I lost to one of our new epee recruits, freshman Madeline Buxton,” said Moss. “While I did want to win, I am proud of her, and excited about the season, especially because we will benefit from the fencing of great new fencers like Maddie.”
The tournament brought together around 25 Yale fencing alums spanning several generations. One of the oldest among them was Joe Bodner ’53, who has been attending the tournament each year since 1974. Among the youngest were Max Blum ’09, son of aforementioned Steven Blum ’74, and last year’s captain, Michael Pearce ’09.
“Our alumni/ae are a blessing, and in particular the class of ‘74” said coach Harutunian. “They are so loyal, and they come back to see the team several times a year, contributing support that is much more important than just money. They are a great example of the big hearts of Yale grads, a special breed with that carries themselves with dignity in all they do in life. As a coach, how can you ask for anything more?”
The feelings of love and respect certainly go both ways. Alums are eager to sing the praises of Harutunian as an exciting, passionate, and caring coach with a big heart. After 40 years as the head coach of fencing at Yale, Harutunian has coached several generations of Yale fencers, but he seems to have a special bond with the class of ’74.
“My first year at Yale was also coach Harutunian’s first year here,” said Steve Blum ’74. “I had never fenced competitively before, but coach Harutunian has the ability to take inexperienced fencers and in a year or two, make them dangerous at the college level. Coach Harutunian was able to mold me and two of my classmates, David Jacobson ’74 and Edgar House ’74, into a tough saber squad; we won the bronze medal nationally.”
However, their bond goes well beyond fencing and Blum is keen to show visitors two particular photos tacked to the wall of Harutunian’s cluttered office on the seventh floor of the Payne Whitney Gymnasium. The first shows a younger looking Harutunian holding a baby—the first born child of Blum, who watches proudly from the edge of the picture. The adjacent photograph similarly shows Harutunian hugging that very same baby—however, she is grown up and dressed in robes at her Yale graduation.
The Dernell Open concluded with the traditional ping pong match between Harutunian and Blum. In a fun but competitive match, Harutunian defeated Blum in sixth games out of ten. As per usual, Blum pledged to donate $500 for each loss to Harutunian, meaning that the event raised another $3000 for the team.
Full Results from the Tournament:
Gold: Thomas Bell, '10
Silver: Adrian Godoy, '12
Bronze: Bob Qu, '12
Gold: John Gurrieri ‘10
Silver: Jonathan Holbrook ‘12
Bronze: Nathaniel Botwinick ‘11
Gold: Sudo Taka, '98
Silver: Colin Mills, '13
Bronze: Max Blum, '09
Gold: Madeline Buxton, '13
Silver: Robyn Shaffer, '13
Bronze: Valerie Asher, '80
Gold: Katharine Pitt, '12
Silver: Jillian Liu, '12
Bronze: Zoe Egelman, '13
Gold: Jennifer Ivers, '10
Silver: Katherine Arden, '10
Bronze: Madeline Oliver, '13
Report by Arsi Sefaj ’11, Yale Sports Publicity