The Huntington High School fencing program honored eight seniors who have meant so much to the Blue Devils before their final home meet earlier this week.
The Blue Devils recognized Neil Jean-Baptiste, Paul Katigbak, Nicholas Kretschmer, Gabriel Medina-Jaudes, Diego Torres, Riley Tucker, Brandon Varady, Josefina Fasolino and Sara Modaresizadeh.
“Since fencing isn’t a popularized and widely understood sport, becoming a Blue Devil fencer allowed me to get some valuable exposure to such a new activity as a freshman,” Mr. Jean-Baptiste said. At first, I was reluctant to continue due to its difficulty, but I persisted in wanting to become the best that I could be. Undoubtedly, the Blue Devil fencing program is the best with amazing teammates and personalities. I must add that fencing is one of the tightest knit communities in all of sports. All the connections you make in this sport are extremely valuable and it brings people together from all walks of life.”
As is tradition, the seniors wore gold crowns and posters were affixed to the gym walls to commemorate the careers of each one of the teenagers.
“Fencing has brought me closer to many people over the past four years and has helped me grow as an individual and athlete,” Mr. Kretschmer said. “I went from learning the fundamentals of fencing to teaching it to my teammates and watching them improve over the seasons. The sport is all about respect, sportsmanship and keeping your confidence, which I believe has reflected on my personal life. All three of my coaches have guided my teammates and I to get to the level we are at by providing us with the necessary skills to improve our performance. Fencing has a special place in my heart and I will never forget my experiences with the Blue Devil fencing team.”
Many parents and fencing fans turned out for Senior Day. There were balloons around the gym and the names of the seniors were prominently displayed on the wall.
“This was my first year on the fencing team so I don’t have much experience, but what I can say is that just from this first year of fencing, I have been given many memorable experiences that have made me both be proud to be a member of the fencing team and regretful for not joining in previous years,” Mr. Torres said.
The Blue Devil coaching staff includes head coach Michelle O’Brien and assistant coaches Vin O’Garra and Burke Tomaselli.
“Participating in the Huntington Blue Devil fencing program has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had during my high school career,” Mr. Katigbak said. “My only regret is waiting until tenth grade to join the team.”
The Blue Devils have been much more competitive this winter than they have been in many years. The graduating seniors will be missed for their skill and leadership.
“I’d say that throughout my six years on the team, the thing that’s brought me back time and time again isn’t the sport itself or how I do, it’s been the team and the family that comes with it,” Mr. Tucker said. “It started out with just me and Gabe [Medina-Jaudes] in seventh grade and since then, year after year, I’ve grown closer and closer with every member of the team and gotten to experience that with some of my best friends. Coach Vin and Coach O’Brien have been around since my first years and have truly become people I hold dear and Coach Tomaselli, our new addition, has quickly joined that roster and joined my family. I’d have to say, overall, fencing is probably my greatest high school experience and I’m sad to see it go, but I’ll definitely be coming back to check on the team’s progress.”
The Section XI fencing championships will be held on Saturday at Newfield. Huntington’s fencers will be in the mix for All-County honors.
“Everybody has something’ that one thing they must do to feel happy and for me that’s fencing,” Mr. Varady said. “Fencing has been that something and it has made me feel more alive than I’ve ever been before. It was an all-around great experience for me and I wish I had joined sooner.”
None of the seniors will ever forget the time they’ve spent with the Blue Devils, their teammates and coaches. Their pride in the program and loyalty to it runs deep.
“I’ve tried many different sports all my life (field hockey, basketball, volleyball, track, crew, cross country), but fencing was the first sport I really felt like I connected with,” Ms. Fasolino said. “I adore being a part of this team because I’ve met so many lovely people who support me every day. It’s wonderful to be on a team, but the minute I step on the strip, it's me and me alone. I love the adrenaline rush and the excitement of a clean win. I love pushing my body to its limit and watching myself improve over the years. I got a medal in my senior year! I love my coaches and I love the confidence and joy fencing brings me.”