The Chatham High School men's and women's varsity fencing teams both earned their first ever NJAC conference championships this season, the ninth year of the program.
The women finished the season with a team-best of 8-1 and the men went undefeated with a 9-0 record. In addition to winning both team conference championships, six of the women's team and seven of the men's team earned spots on the NJAC All-Conference Fencing Team, twice as many as any other NJAC team.
The fencing teams will kick-off their 2020 season with a preseason team and parent meeting this Tuesday, March 19, at 7 p.m. in the high school cafeteria.
The teams are looking for new team members with or without fencing experience. Positions as photographers, videographers, and weapons engineers, AKA: armorers, are also available and can earn varsity letters.
Fencing is an all varsity sport and offers the opportunity to earn a four-year varsity award, which is much more difficult with sports that have freshmen or JV teams. The coaches can be reached at ChathamFencing@gmail.com
While fencing, nicknamed physical chess, is a mentally and physically challenging twelve-month sport focused on the individual, in New Jersey high schools fencing becomes a 90-day winter contest with three levels of competition: team, squad, and individual. The team meets and tournaments begin with a base of nine team starters, three in each of the weapons: sabre, foil, and epee. Most tournaments like the 54 team men's Cetrulo and 52 team women's Santelli use the squad format of three fencers from each school in the same weapon in competition pools against squads from the other schools.
The results of the three squads in each weapon from the same school are combined to determine the overall team winner. The official NJSIAA Fencing All-State Team is determined by total points fencers earn in several tournaments over the season: the NJIFA Santelli or Cetrulo, the NJSIAA District Tournament, the NJSIAA State Squad Championship, and the NJSIAA State Individual Weapon Championship.
The teams wrapped up the season with a women's top 16 finish after a 12-15 loss to the eventual 4th place team, Northern Highlands. The men's team managed one level up with a top 8 team finish beating Montclair 14-13 and losing to St. Peter's Prep, this year's silver medal team, 12-15 in the State Team Finals. This is the second time each team has reached those levels in the last four years.
The Chatham sabre squads had their best seasons ever finishing at the State Squad Championships which took place on February 23rd and 24th at North Hunterdon High School with a silver medal for the men and a bronze medal for the women. Both squads went 47-10 for their events. This is the first time in Chatham fencing that they have reached the podium in any of the three State Championships.
The final tournament of the high school fencing season is the State Individual Weapon Championship for the titles of State Champion in each weapon which was hosted by Livingston High School on Sunday, March 3rd. Chatham was one of three schools that qualified seven or more fencers for this event and one of only two schools to send all three fencers from the same squad. Only those fencers who participate in the NJSIAA Fencing District Tournament squad portion can earn a spot in the District Individual round and potentially move on to compete against the best in New Jersey for the title of State Champion. Fencers have to get through all three of the competition rounds for a shot at the podium where the top five are only a few touches apart. The women's fencers, sabres Kailing Sathyanath and Kat Xikes finished 13th and 21st respectively, with Amy Zheng at 22nd in women's foil. Zak Zeareban finished 18th in men's foil. Darren Yen, Marshall Hong, and Preston Yen finished 4th, 5th, and 12th respectively in men's sabre. Chatham was the only school to have three fencers in the same weapon make the second round or to have two fencers in the same weapon finish in the top five.
The NJIFA / NJSIAA will host their Fencing All-State Team Awards Banquet on Monday, March 18th, in Mountain Lakes, where Chatham fencing will be represented by Kailing Sathyanath for Women's Sabre All-State 2nd Team and Darren Yen and Marshall Hong for Men's Sabre All-State 1st Team. This is the first time that Chatham has had three team members earn spots on the All-State Team roster.
Head Coach Jerry Duffey summed up the season, "These are the two best fencing teams that Chatham has had in the nine years of the program. They can accomplish things as a team that are bigger than the sum of their parts. The coaches had an idea of the potential of both teams going into this season and worked toward the Morris County, District One, and NJAC championships for both teams. That we accomplished three of the six with teams whose starters are half underclassmen and made it to the State Squad Championship podium is an amazing feat.
"All of our kids have every right to be proud of what they accomplished together. Six of our fencers will graduate this year and hopefully fence and referee in college. Some top schools are graduating out whole squads of their best fencers. We believe that as a team the Chatham fencers are capable of going all the way to the top of New Jersey high school fencing and that is going to be our drive for the next two seasons. We'll start attacking that goal on Tuesday at the preseason meeting. The journey is going to be a lot of fun and we are definitely going to see some more firsts for Chatham Fencing."
Team highlights of the 2018-2019 season:
Morris County Fencing Tournament
Women's Sabre Squad: Bronze
Women's Foil Individual: Bronze Medal - Sonia Julius
Men’s Team Champions (3rd time)
Men's Sabre Squad: Gold Medal (26-1 record)
Men's Foil Squad: Silver Medal (22-5)
Men's Sabre Individual: Gold Medal - Darren Yen (undefeated)
Men's Foil Individual: Silver Medal - Zak Zeareban
NJIFA Women's Santelli Tournament
Women’s Team: 4th place, best team finish for Chatham fencing
Women's Sabre Squad: Bronze Medal, best squad finish for Chatham women
Women's Foil Squad: 5th, best foil squad finish for Chatham women
NJIFA Cetrulo Tournament
Men’s Team: 7th place, best men’s team finish for Chatham fencing
Men's Sabre Squad: Silver Medal, best squad finish for Chatham fencing
Men's Foil Squad: 11th, best foil squad finish for Chatham men
NJSIAA Fencing District 1 Tournament
Women's Team: 3rd, qualified for State Team Sweet 16 Finals
Women’s Sabre Squad: Gold Medal, first women’s Fencing District 1 Squad Championship and first simultaneous men's and women's District Squad Championships.
Women’s Individual Sabre: Gold Medal - Kat Xikes
Women’s Individual Sabre: Silver Medal - Kailing Sathyanath, first time Chatham wins district gold and silver in women's fencing
Men’s Team: 2nd Place, qualified for State Team Sweet 16 Finals
Only 1 bout separated the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place teams.
Men's Sabre Squad: Gold medal, (27-0) first full tournament squad sweep for Chatham fencing
Men's Foil Squad: Gold medal, first non-sabre Squad Championship for Chatham fencing
Men's Sabre Individual: Gold Medal - Darren Yen
Men's Sabre Individual: Silver Medal - Marshall Hong
Men's Sabre Individual: 4th - Preston Yen
First time Chatham fencing qualifies all three fencers from the same squad for State Individuals; one of two men's teams to accomplish this in 2019. Second time that Chatham has won both men's and women's District 1 Sabre Champions.
Men's Foil Individual: Silver Medal - Zak Zeareban
Montclair Fencing Frosh Soph
Girls' Sophomore Foil Champion: Gold Medal - Sonia Julius
Girls' Freshman Sabre Champion: Gold Medal - Kat Xikes; Bronze Medal - Nylah Haq
Boys' Freshmen Epee Champion: Gold Medal - Jonah Blanchard
Referees: Kyle Reyes, Vincent Liu, Marshall Hong, Kailing Sathyanath
The NJIFA, New Jersey Interscholastic Fencing Association, is the comprised of the New Jersey high school fencing coaches. The organization serves as an advisory board to the NJSIAA on the sport of fencing in high school. They manage the Sweet 16 State Team Championships, the State Squad Championships, and the State Individual Weapon Championships, and certify and present trophies to the official NJSIAA Fencing All-State Team. They also operate the Santelli and Cetrulo tournaments, the largest high school fencing team tournaments in the world. The NJIFA provides assistance with and information on starting new high school varsity fencing teams and can be reached at NJIFAsecretary@gmail.com