Maplewood Schools / Kids South Orange Sports

Columbia High School Fencing Teams Vie for Dual State Championships

This is a very exciting week for the Columbia High School Girls’ and Boys’ Fencing Teams, as both will be vying for the title of best fencing team in the state — at the same time and in the same place.

The girls will square off against Bergen County Technical and the boys will face St. Peter’s Prep in the NJSIAA Championship Meet, at Morris Hills High School, 520 W Main Street, Rockaway, NJ at 7 p.m. Feel free to come and cheer the teams on!

Read more about how the teams got to the championships, from fencing parent Krysia Woods, at the end of this article.

Read more about the rest of the fencing teams’s season in these Village Green articles here, here and here.

“I am truly proud of the hard work and dedication each team put forth this season,” said Girls’ Head Coach Tiffini Ginlock. “They are deserving of the State title this year and more importantly they won’t go down without a fight. I am honored to be their coach!”

The last time the boys and girls teams both made it to the semifinals was two years ago, when the girls took home the trophy against Pingry while the boys lost in the final round to Montclair, said Ginlock. In 2016, the girls were 2nd in the state.

We’re thrilled that the two teams have had such great seasons and are looking forward to seeing them fence for the titles,” said CHS Principal Elizabeth Aaron. “I look forward to being there in person and…am hoping it doesn’t come quite down to the wire as closely as it did two years ago. That one gave me new gray hairs overnight!”

The team members and captains are also feeling the excitement — as well as a little bit of the pressure.

“Although I feel a little nervous going into the championship, I’m definitely excited and overwhelmingly proud of our team,” said senior Sebastian Clarke, a captain of the boys’ team. “Although Columbia has a reputation of winning, many of the people on this year’s team have never won a championship, so it’s a new experience for a lot of us. I’m so glad to have this opportunity with such a great team, and I have nothing but confidence for all of us going into Wednesday.”

Luz Aguba, a senior who is a captain of the girls’ team, said that this is her fourth year going to states. “This year the girls team worked very hard and I’m so proud of them. I think making it to elite eight and then winning against Montgomery really boosted our confidence up. It was a challenge to get where we are and we worked very hard throughout the season and I think we will be able to win on Wednesday,  I am confident in my team and were going to give it our all.”

Columbia is renowned for its stellar fencing program throughout New Jersey and nationwide, and top fencers go on to fence at colleges and universities. Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad is a product of the school’s fencing program. CHS also is known for its indefatigable enthusiasm, with fencers cheering on their fellow teammates with gusto — making for extremely exciting (and high-decibel) meets.

Good luck to the teams in their quest to become the best in New Jersey!

Here’s how both teams got to where they are now, from Krysia Woods:

The CHS Girls’ Fencing Team will once again be competing in the final of the State High School Fencing Championships this week after their win against Montgomery High School.

Saber fencer Laura Spanier started the winning streak with the first victory bout in round one, followed by winning bouts from foil fencers Marissa Viquiera and Hanae Garrison, and epee fencer Isabelle Wendt. Garrison displayed patience and fast thinking under pressure to win 5-4.

With Montgomery leading 5-4 at the start of the second round, all three saber fencers Laura Spanier, Brianna Stellini, and Sophia Heriveaux were determined to use all their strength to win their bouts and put Columbia in the lead. Viquiera added a point for foil, and Wendt and Ana Cowie won more bouts for epee moving the score to 10-8 in Columbia’s favor by the end of round two.

Stellini and Spanier won the two third round saber bouts to further advance Columbia’s score. Spanier demonstrating very strong fencing to win her bout 5-0. Viquiera put in a convincing win for foil to set up her fellow foil fencer Camille Pham to clinch (14-10) with her decisive 5-0 win.

The CHS Girls’ Fencing Team also won the three dual meets against Morristown High School, Millburn High School, and MKA. At the Morristown meet outstanding fencing was seen by saber fencer Janine Bacchus-Joseph, who won all three of her bouts with determination and strength. Saber fencer Mia Zuckerburg not only had her first varsity victory, but won both her bouts convincingly 5-1,5-0 with excellent fencing. Lulu Mansfield-Greenwald won both her saber bouts to contribute to the team win. Foil fencers Luz Aguba, Taylor Brooks, Roshanna Hyppolite, and Amelia Wissel all won bouts with Wissel having her first varsity victory. Garrison knocked out her opponent 5-0 in the first round with some superior fencing. Epee fencers Cowie, Brassington, Wendt, Jasmine Lecount-McClannahan, and Saffron Payne all had victorious bouts with Cowie clinching for the CHS girls 14-4. Payne also had her first varsity victory at this meet.

The girls defeated Millburn High School 14-5 with strong fencing seen once again in all three weapons. Saber girls Heriveaux, Spanier, and Stellini had an exceptional all win start, with Pham and Aguba following with their foil wins in the first round. Cowie and Wendt won both their first round bouts in epee. In the second round Stellini, Heriveaux, and Pham kept the score going up and epee girls Brassington, Wendt, and Cowie won all of their bouts, setting up Bacchus-Joseph to clinch for the meet with her convincing 5-1 win.

The CHS girls’ won their meet against Montclair Kimberley as they forfeited on the night.

The CHS Boys’ Fencing Team followed the girls lead in winning their semi-final bout against Wayne Hills in the State High School Championships and also by winning all three of their dual meets during the week.

The boys’ threw themselves into each and every bout against Wayne Hills with all the positive energy they could muster, never once believing that they would not win despite some very strong saber opponents. Aaron Waldner started the first round with strong saber fencing to win the first bout for Columbia. Tran Soles-Torres, Luke Moramarco, and Jack Woods were not about to show any mercy in foil with the stakes being so high. They won all bouts they fenced. Epee fencers Josh Abdill, and Adam DuBowy worked on moving Columbia’s score higher with CHS going into the second round 6-3

Saber captain Rothenberg scored a point in the second round.  Epee’s DuBowy and Isaiah Ogbeifun won their bouts bringing the score to the comfortable 12-6 by the end of round two. Saber’s Dean Gillette saved the night for saber with his decisive win which set up foil fencer Woods to clinch the semi-final meet for the High School State Championships 14-8.

The first dual meet for the week was against Morristown High School in which the CHS boys’ won 14-7. In the first round Gillette and Michael Mee won their bouts and Sole-Torres scored a point for foil. All three epee fencers Abdill, DuBowy, and Ogbeifun displayed strong fencing to win all their bouts. In the second round Mee and Waldner had convincing wins for saber and all three foil fencers Moramarco, Clarke, and Soles-Torres followed with strong wins. DuBowy and Abdill continued to win which enabled saber fencer Stephan Oloade to clinch for the night when he displayed quick thinking under pressure to win 5-4. This was his first varsity victor.

Many would consider the boys’ meet against Millburn High School which they won 14-13, to be one of the most intense meets for both fencers and spectators alike. Columbia’s strength in all three weapons was being tested on the night, but once again the ever supportive spirit of the  CHS Boys’ Team came through to enable them to defeat Millburn albeit by only one point.

Saber’s Gillette kept calm under the pressure of the 4-4 bout to come through and win the first point for his team and Moramarco and Abdill added their wins to the scoreboard in foil and epee respectively to bring the score to 3-6 with Millburn in the lead. In the second round Rothenberg came in with a vengeance with his 5-0 win for saber, and Moramarco and Soles-Torres followed his lead in winning their bouts in foil. Epee fencers Abdill and Ogbeifun showed determination and patience in bringing the score to 8-10 with Millburn still in the lead.

Saber fencer Gillette once again displayed calmness and speed under the pressure of a 5-4 win to put a point on the board for saber. Foil fencer Tran Soles-Torres’ convincing win in the third round triggered the extraordinary domino effect of five straight victories with fellow fencer Andrew Wasden, and all three epee fencers Ogbeifun, Abdill, and Dubowy exhibiting the same passion and determination under pressure, to defeat Millburn 14-8. DuBowy clinched for the night.

In the final dual meet of the week the boys’ defeated Montclair Kimberley Academy 14-5. Strong fencing was demonstrated once again by fencers in all three weapons. Saber fencer Michael Wallin’s high pressure win clinched for Columbia on the night.

Both the CHS Girls’ and Boys’ Fencing Teams will be heading to the Morris Hills High School in Rockaway, NJ on Wednesday February 22 from 7pm to 9pm to compete in the finals of the 2016-2017 State High School Fencing Championships.

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