It was an ending to the season that sent both of the Montgomery High School fencing teams home happy.

For the girls, the epee squad came away with a state title when it finished four victories ahead of Pingry to capture the state epee squad title at North Hunterdon on Feb. 23. The boys joined in on the fun when the foil squad edged Ridge by two bouts to come away with the state foil squad title the next day,  which was also competed at North Hunterdon.

“The girls did a great job and the boys too,” Montgomery girls coach Johanna Snedeker said. “You always want to peak at the right time and they just peaked at just the right time. I said to the bus driver as I got off the bus that we’re not here to fence for second place. So we knew we wanted first place and the girls were emotionally and phyisically ready.”

Junior Julia Yoon won 18 of her 19 bouts to lead the Cougars, while freshman Meghana Paturu and sophomore Emma Ni each won 17 bouts. Montgomery finished with 52 points to edge Pingry, which finished with 48 points.

“It was nice having one in each grade,” Snedeker said. “Our epee squad keeps churning along. They did really well. After lunch when they would get into a lull in the past, we were able to prep and avoid that this time. They came out strong in the afternoon and fenced really well. 

“All three had just come off (Junior Olympics) the week before so they were in peak form and ready for this.”

Ni added to her successful season when she finished second in the state in the individual epee on Sunday at Livingston. On a team that has traditionally been one of the top in the state, the epee squad was the strongest for the Cougars this year. 

“It’s always something firing,” Snedeker said. “The foil for a while was our best weapon and then sabre had success a few years back. Epee was the one this year and I believe the epee and foil will both be very strong next year. Sabre we will see. They are still working on how to win.”

The day was a special one for the Cougars because they not only posted a victory on the girls’ side, but the boys came away with a title as well.

“That was the coolest thing,” Snedeker said. “To only send two squads and have then both win the championship is very good. The caliber of fencer in New Jersey has risen dramatically in last four years so it is not easy to win.” 

In the boys’ foil, the Cougars edged Ridge, 49-47, for the squad title. Charles Liu and Evan Wang each won 17 bouts, while Justin Cho won 15. Montgomery had finished fifth at last year’s squad championships but made the jump to first this season.

“I am so happy for this group of foils,” Montgomery boys coach Tim Sullivan said. “They have been together for three years. We have two seniors and a junior and they have been in the finals the last three years. They handled themselves well. They were fifth last year so it was nice to take it this year. 

“It’s like a marathon. There are 19 bouts and you start at 9:30 in the morning and finish at 4:30 in the afternoon. There are ups and downs because there are some really good fencers. It means being able to handle the pressure in tough situations. You will suffer a loss you don’t expect and you need to be able to block that out and move on to next opponent.”

The Cougars were especially pleased to have finished ahead of Ridge, which had been their biggest rival this season.

“We were back and forth with Ridge,” Sullivan said. “We got them in the county. They beat us regular season and at Cetrullo. Then we surprised them and won by one at districts. I knew they would be a big match and there were also other good teams in there. There are a lot of good individuals from different teams. If you don’t do well against then it will hurt. Every loss can make a difference. To get 49 wins out of a possible 57 is impressive.” 

Chow and Wang are the seniors on the squad, whole Liu is a junior.

“Justin Chow is the leader and backbone of the team,” Sullivan said. “We had a great foil team five years ago and he came in after they left. We were at square one and he was a great motivator. He’s the only one of three that goes to club for fencing. They listen to him and follow him and it showed. They have been a force the past two seasons.

“I was happy for that group to finish the way they did. They came together at the right time. The focus they had all day was amazing. Even the subs, Theo Wilkinson and Gracious Anithanam. I enjoyed the season and really enjoyed this group of guys.”

This season marked the end of her coaching career for Snedeker, who got the program started with the help of Steve Caputo, who was also able to be on hand when the epee team captured its title.

“This was my last coaching event,” Snedeker said. “And it was great that Steve Caputo was able to be there. He had a heart transplant so it was nice for him to come back and have the girls get the win. And for me to end on a state champ in no small thing.”

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