UNION COUNTY, NJ — Some local athletes helped Garwood’s Advance Fencing & Fitness Academy win four national titles and 10 total medals at the U.S.A. Fencing National Championships in Philadelphia, from July 3 through 12.
AFFA’s Abby Parker of Westfield, Kailing Sathyanath of Chatham, Lola Possick of Weehawken and Jadeyn Williams of Metuchen all had stellar performances and helped bring home a national championship title for the women’s saber senior team. Sathyanath, Possick, Williams and Veronika Mika also all won silver for the women’s saber junior team. Mika, 13, of Basking Ridge was national champion in Y14 and Cadet, ranking first in the nation in women’s saber for Y14.
“We won the national championship title for women’s saber on July 7, 2021,” said Parker, who now ranks seventh nationally, on Friday, July 30. “After a year of national competitions being canceled, we were happy to return. However, I struggled at points, as I have not been training as consistently since competing at NCAAs this past season. Although I did not medal in my individual events, I am proud of my contribution to the team event and enjoyed the experience.
“I trained all school year as a member of the Division 1 UNC fencing team; however, I took most of the summer off to focus on work and school,” she continued. “It wasn’t until two weeks before summer nationals that I was able to fully focus on training again.
“I have such a strong bond with my clubmates because we all grew up together, not only as fencers but into the people we are today,” she added. “One of the worst parts about going off to college was not getting to see them at practice every day. Getting to compete as a team one last time was a dream come true.”
Parker talked about how far she has come with the AFFA since it was founded in 2013.
“I joined AFFA when it was founded, and, from the start, the club excelled and made a name for itself,” Parker said. “Me and my clubmates consecutively medaled at team events throughout the years. Winning the national championship title this summer makes me proud, as it shows how our club has grown and that the coaches continue to produce star athletes.
“Winning the national championship in a year where fencing is at the forefront in the Tokyo Olympics is more meaningful than in past years. I am excited to see the future of the sport as it continues to gain popularity in the media and develops more of a following.”
Parker said her next goal is to qualify for the NCAAs.
“I am excited to return to UNC this fall and begin training again,” she said. “My goal for this season is to qualify for the NCAAs. While I qualified for NCAAs this past season, the competition was much different than normal, because of COVID. I hope to qualify again, so I can get the full NCAA experience.”
For the men’s saber team, Aleks Ochocki of Clark, the owner and coach of the AFFA, came out of retirement to join AFFA saber coach Jakub “Kuba” Jaskot of Poznan, Poland; Konrad Czyzewski of Caldwell; and Malcolm Fields of Green Brook, each of whom secured national championship titles for the team. According to Ochocki, the team finished at the top of the leader board as a single-weapon club, with no veteran fencers competing.
“We trained very hard all through COVID and closures and prepared with a final training camp a week before the competition — five days of two-a-day practices and one-on-one lessons,” Ochocki said on Friday, July 30. “(The event) was a one-day event for me. The kids have been trying to talk me into it for some time, and I just finally gave in. It was a lot of fun competing and especially with my students.”
AFFA athletes had additional winning performances from Anika Sinha of Watchung, who won silver in Division 2; John Morreale of Wall, who finished sixth in Division 1A; Possick, who finished eighth in Division 1; Czyzewski, who won bronze in Cadet; Fields, who finished fifth in Division 1; and Sathyanath, who finished eighth in Division 1A.
His club winning four national titles and 10 total medals, said Ochocki, is a tremendous feeling.
“We have been waiting for this moment for over a year and a half. Everyone put in maximum efforts, and it paid off,” Ochocki said. “It’s a tremendous feeling to know all of the hard work of the athletes, coaches and parents paid off. Sports have a lot of ups and downs, and we’re extremely happy to enjoy the culmination of years of work.
“We will put our work boots back on and continue to help develop our athletes on and off the field,” he continued. “Everyone has different goals, and we are trying to help them achieve those every step of the way.”
Jaskot said AFFA had worked very hard to prepare participants for this competition and the sacrifices they made by missing out on normal activities, due to competing. He said participants have now gotten a taste of what it feels like to compete at the highest level, which, in Jaskot’s opinion, serves as motivation to train harder.
“It has been a difficult year in general, in which our athletes had to make adjustments to the way they trained, before in-person training resumed,” Jaskot said on Friday, July 30. “It’s very difficult to perform the way they did with having to balance out practice, school and being a regular kid. They spend so much time traveling and competing, missing out on the things normal kids do.
“I think it’s a great motivation for our athletes to see the highest level of competition and give them the boost to train even harder, especially since one of our athletes, Kaito Streets, competed in Tokyo, representing Japan, and Jonah Shainberg traveled as an alternate for Team USA.”