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Commack's Slackman shines at Jeff Wolfe fencing tournament

After an intense victory in the final bout of the day, Commack’s Valerie Slackman candidly summarized the scene after a long day of fencing.

“It’s an emotional rollercoaster,” said Slackman, who took first in epee Saturday at the Jeff Wolfe Holiday Tournament at Brentwood.

The annual tournament featured more than 300 fencers from Nassau, Suffolk and upstate.

After trailing for most of the title bout and settling for several double touches, Slackman finally tied her match with Mamaroneck’s Celine De Jager at 13. After another double made it 14-14, Slackman regained composure and slipped in the final touch to clinch the match, letting loose a thunderous roar as she pulled off her mask in celebration.

“When you keep doubling, and everyone is telling you to do something different, you know you have to change something,” Slackman said. “So I just let go of everything and went for it.”

It was the second title of the day for a Commack fencer, as Sean Pak had defeated Ward Melville’s Will Lehr, 15-10, to win the boys epee.

Half Hollow Hills also had two winners, sweeping the boys and girls sabre titles with impressive performances from Conor Travaglione and Erica Chen.

Chen, a junior, won her second consecutive Brentwood Holiday Gold Medal with a 15-6 win over Commack’s Catherine Kim in the final bout. Chen follows the footsteps of her mentor and former teammate, Crystal Chen, who also won multiple medals at Brentwood. 

“Crystal really took me in and taught me a lot about fencing during our time as teammates,” Chen said. “So, it really means a lot to me to be able to continue her legacy.”

Travaglione returned to Brentwood in top form after a third-place finish last winter. He edged out a 15-14 victory over Ward Melville’s Albert Tian in the quarterfinals, then defeated Newfield’s Domenic Bartolo in the semifinals before beating Commack’s Eric Huang, 15-8, in the title bout.

“[Eric] is a very good fencer and I had to take him very seriously,” Travaglione said. “But I’ve played him before, and I knew the strategy I needed to employ to beat him.” 

In the boys foil final, Ward Melville’s Michael DeSando defeated Garden City’s Zach Ortiz, 15-11, in a cross-county matchup between two of the top foilists on Long Island.

And in the girls final, Great Neck South’s Mandy Li, a freshman, defeated Hills’ Jenna Jacinto, 15-7, to complete a foil tournament run that nobody saw coming, including Li herself.

“I’m surprised I won, because I was nervous in the beginning,” Li said. “But all my friends were here, and I just kept telling myself that I could do it, I could do it.”

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