With the opening of the 2010 Winter Games in Canada, the Olympic Spirit is everywhere lately. But nowhere is it more personal than in Berkeley Heights as the Highlander Fencing Teams are sending 7 athletes to the 2010 United States Fencing Junior Olympic Championships in Memphis, Tennessee this weekend.
Qualifying for this year's Junior Olympics are: Lauren Wagner (Saber), Cherie Kao (Epee), Colleen Reilly (Foil), Jillian Rosamilia (Saber), Zoe To (Saber), Taia Harrison (Foil) and Andy Sui (epee).
They will join the Under-20 best fencers in the USA in a weekend-long series of competitions. All of them had to pass through a gauntlet of qualifying competitions locally to reach the National Junior Olympics. For a few, like Senior Saber Jillian Rosamilia, this is a return to the Junior Olympic stage and a chance to show her abilities off to potential college coaches. For the rest, it is a unique opportunity to step up their game against a higher level of competitors.
"We pride ourselves on getting our fencers ready for National-level competition by stressing fitness, endurance and preparation," remarked an obviously-proud Gov.Livingston Head Fencing Coach Vince Paragano. "We emphasize qualifying for the Junior Olympics in our training since the JO'qs expose our players to faster, more skilled competition and it makes them better in high school level bouts."
Over the years, Gov. Livingston has sent many fencers into the NCAA College fencing ranks. Many of those fencers, including recent alumnae Nate Benzimra (Yale), Nik Barbera (Johns Hopkins), Beverly Yang (Cornell), Bridget Greeley (Lafayette), Jenn Denike (Duke) and Mike Wolff (Stevens), got their first taste of National-level competition and their first exposure to college recruiters at the Junior Olympics.
"When the kids see beyond New Jersey high school fencing, they start to appreciate how popular this sport is across the country - and especially at the Ivy League schools," added Assistant Coach Tony Barbera. "Everything that we do at GL is geared to getting these kids into great college programs and Fencing opens up a lot of doors for them."