Girls’ Varsity District 5 Champions
Courtesy Courtesy Cara Moroze

by Andrew Garda

Hosts are usually supposed to show deference to their guests, but while the Montclair High School fencing team did all they could to make the rest of the District 5 competitors comfortable before they stepped on the fencing strip, all bets were off when they crossed swords.

Which left the Mounties once again finishing strong in the championship competition. Last year saw the girls finish second overall, with the boys in third. This year, the girls claimed first overall with the boys repeating their third place win.

Along the way, girls saber took first place in their discipline. Both boys and girls epee as well as girls foil took second. Boys foil took fourth place.

It should come as no surprise that Mounties girls saber once again dominated the floor.

Grace Van Atta, Grace Edgington and Emily Hand have been exceptional as both a unit and individually for the past few years. All three finished in the top five for their weapon, with Van Atta taking first, Edgington taking third and Hand finishing fifth.

“Girls Sabre went completely undefeated in the morning to earn their District Championship,” head coach Ed Chang said in an email Tuesday. “This means each of the three girls won all of of their bouts at their positions. Winning the District Championship in such a decisive a fashion is worth noting.”

They were not alone in staying undefeated during the morning bouts. Epee fencers Clara Mendoza and Brian Roseboro both won all their early matches as well.

Mendoza won first place in girls epee, with Amira Mutakabbir taking second and Katherine Mathis placing ninth.

What was truly impressive about Mendoza’s win was how steep the odds were that she faced.

“Clara Mendoza qualifying for District Individuals as the best C-strip fencer is no small feat,” Chang said.

For the championships, there are five A-strip fencers, three B-strip fencers and just one C-strip fencer.

That means, from a percentage standpoint, that it’s very hard for a C-strip fencer to make the finals, they have to fence almost perfectly to win. Mendoza was perfect in the morning and nearly so again in the afternoon.

And now Mendoza is one of the MHS student-athletes heading to the State Individual Championships.

For girls foil, Georgia Chen placed second, with Lila Zimbalist taking third place.

Individually, it was a big day for the Mountie girls, with eight of the nine starters on the girls varsity squad reaching the District Individual Championship round, six of whom went on to qualify for State Individual Championships.

Roseboro and his fellow epee fencers led the solid showing from the boys. Roseboro finished in fourth place, while Alex Moyse took third. The boys were only off one bout from the top squad spot, and continue to improve each week.

Two members of the foil team placed as well, with Lee Meyers taking third and Jacob Appiah finished ninth. Nathan Weiss took sixth place in saber.

Of the nine varsity starters on the boys team, five made it to the District Individual Championship Round, with three qualifying for State Individual Championships.

That makes nine Montclair High School fencers who qualified for State Individuals, more than any other school. Columbia had the next most with six, while Saint Peter’s Prep, Bergen Tech and West Essex each had three.

As the qualifying fencers prepare for states, the Mounties will hold the Montclair Invitational on February 10, where freshmen and sophomore fencers compete. Valerie Roseboro, president of the MHS Fencing Boosters invites anyone to come out and see what the sport is about.

“We encourage everyone, especially those who are thinking about joining the fencing team next year, to watch the Freshmen and Sophomores compete,” Roseboro wrote in an email Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the Mounties Varsity program continues to prove their mettle this season, and once again head into the state tournaments well represented.

For Susie Sonneborn, Communications director of the Booster Club, the Mounties are an exciting group to watch, constantly producing quality fencers each year.

“Every year, we watch fencers step up their efforts and amaze,” she said. “This year was no exception, and we hope many new and veteran fencers alike are feeling inspired by this season’s experiences.”

In other local fencing news, Montclair Kimberley Academy boys finished ninth, with the girls claiming tenth place.