MADISON, NJ - The Chatham girls fencing foil squad put forth the best showing in school history by winning the bronze medal, highlighting the Cougars' effort at the 41st annual Santelli Tournament held on Saturday in the Simon Forum at Drew University.
The Chatham foils squad, led by senior captain Amy Zheng, and her team of Sonia Julius, Samantha Serban, and Aree Kim finished the day with 11 victories and 10 losses in earning the bronze medal.
"These girls have the hearts of lions," Jim Powers, Chatham coach, said. "They just keep fighting. I think they are the best foil squad I've had the pleasure to work with. They really proved themselves today against the best in New Jersey."
Fifty-three girls' high school, three weapon, fencing teams participated in the 41st annual NJIFA Santelli Tournament. According to the organizers, the New Jersey Interscholastic Fencing Association, the tournament is the oldest and largest of its kind for girls in the world with over 600 girls in the competition. Chatham High School sent a team of 12 girls to the event.
Chatham team and epee captain, senior Dorothy Zhang and her squad Elysa Jordan, Amudha Krishnan, and Anushka Jois had a pool of tough squads in the morning including Montgomery High School the eventual epee squad champions for the day. Their first-round finished with 6 bout wins to 15 losses. The afternoon round provided a more balanced pool of fencing opponents. Sophomore Krishnan and freshman Jois shared C-strip duties. Krishnan won two with only one loss from a tied bout. Jois went undefeated in the afternoon with three victories.
On B-strip, Zhang won five and had only one loss from a tied bout. Junior Jordan withstood the A-strip fight for the day finishing with two wins and four close losses. The epee girls worked their way up from 46th to 39th helping to improve the team's overall score.
"Our first pool had a lot of strong teams," Hunter Stusnick, Chatham Epee coach, said. "The second pool was good practice and our girls did well. The all-new District 3 tournament next weekend will also be a long day, and we needed to see how we might hold up."
Sabre squad captain, junior Izzy Gianusso and the sabres, Kat Xikes, Nylah Haq, and Sara Fidler had a solid showing all day beginning with a good run in the morning. They walked into the event seeded at 17th.
On C-strip sophomore Fidler had only one loss and pulled in six wins. Sophomore Haq had three losses including two close bouts and put in four strong wins. Sophomore Kat Xikes suffered only one loss in the morning, a tied bout with 4-time national champion, Lola Possick from the Kent Place squad. The sabres finished with a respectable 16 wins and 5 losses putting them in 8th place after the first round and qualifying them for the pool of the top eight squads in the second round.
"This is why our sabre girls continue to be top contenders, they work hard all year and are strong across all three strips." said sabre coach Jerry Duffey, "One or even two great fencers does not make for a winning squad in New Jersey. You have to have three. Plus a good alternate. We have them."
In the pool with the sabre squads fighting for number one, the fencing moved to the next level. Fidler won her bout against Governor Livingston and had three tied bout losses with Livingston, Bernards, and Moorestown Friends, three of the top four finishers. Haq did even better in the afternoon posting five wins. Only Bernards and Montclair managed to get past her. Xikes took on the top A-strips fencers with two wins and five losses. The sabre squad finished with 8 victories and 13 losses for a squad finish of 6th place, the second-highest result for the team's sabre girls at the Santelli.
The foils squad had the best results for the Chatham girls this weekend. Foil captain, senior Amy Zheng, and her squad, Sonia Julius, Samantha Serban, and Aree Kim seeded into the tournament at #2, behind Northern Highlands and ahead of Millburn. The high ranking was a combination of class status, a senior and a junior and a sophomore, as well as national ratings, Julius' E rating and Serban's Summer earned A rating.
Being the top squad in their morning pool the Chatham foil squad only dropped one bout to Montclair, with Zheng going 6-1 on B-strip and Serban and Julius undefeated on A-strip and C-strip respectively. Between the three of them, they won 16 bouts with scores of 5-1 or 5-0, sweeping six of the other teams. The top three seeded foil squads held their places moving into the second round. Montclair High School with an initial seed of #27 jumped to #4, knocking the initial #4, Indian Hills, to #5.
The second round tested the squads' ability and durability as fencing continued past 6 p.m. During that time Julius, Zheng, and Serban swept Millburn and went 2-1 with Montclair, Indian Hills, and Bernards, 1-2 against Ridge and Watchung Hills. The Northern Highlands squad only lost one bout all day. In the end, the Chatham foils had 11 victories and 10 losses which were good for the bronze medal. This is the first foil medal for Chatham at the Santelli Tournament.
In addition to being a premier tournament, the Santelli is also a scouting tool for the district and State championships. The Chatham girls' fencing team will travel to Livingston High School on Sunday the 19th to compete in the newly rearranged NJSIAA Fencing District 3 Championship to qualify for the State tournaments.
Participating schools in district three in order of team results at the Santellie are Montclair, Columbia, Livingston, Chatham, Millburn, Randolph, Mendham, Morristown, WMC, MKA, and Newark Academy. Only the top four finishers in team, squads, and individuals will go on to the State finals.