November 11, 2013
by Stephen Jan in brooklyn, NY
I’ve seen adventure teams raise money through Kickstarter, music concerts, and social dinners. Some lucky teams are supported by independently wealthy team members or by corporate sponsorships. As far as I know, we are the only team that raises funds by throwing fencing tournaments. What the hey, whatever it takes to get the job done right? But thanks to generous support from Brooklyn Fencing Center and to promotion efforts from my dear friend Dorian Cohen, Team Last Responders was able to put together it’s second, bi-annual, Open Fencing Competition. This time, it was aptly named : the Chichen Itza Challenge.
Leading up the event I was pretty worried that no one was going to show up. The NYC Marathon was on the same day. When large events like those are in town, the cops are out, the streets are closed and city nearly shuts down. I figured people would be turned off by the idea of getting around on marathon day, cuz i would definitely be turned off. Apparently I underestimated people’s desire to compete and win. Despite the marathon, we had around 40 competitors. Not only that, participants had schlepped in from New Jersey, Connecticut and even Boston, Massachusetts.
Among the supporters who showed up was my old friend Matt Catino. These days, Matt runs his own fencing club, Fencers School of CT, up in Guilford. But rewind back to 2008, I competed both with him and against him in the local competitive circuit. We both trained with the same coach at Fencing Academy of Westchester and we teamed up at national championships for the mens foil team event, narrowly defeated in the final round. This was the first I saw him in years, and after all this time, the one thing that brought him away from his family responsibilities was to support me and my team. If that isn’t the definition of the friendship, I don’t know what it.
In the end, the winners of this year’s Team Last Responders Challenge were Max Blitzer, and Kelleigh Ryan both pretty strong fencers. I’ve never fenced Kelleigh but I’ve faced Max several times. I guess i could say he and I go way back. I had heard through the grapevine that he now worked for the CIA. Max completely denied it and said that he hadn’t even graduated yet. I believed him - until Ken told me that Max passed along a list of phone numbers for us to call in case we got in trouble in Colombia.