By the 3 in the afternoon Saturday, the gym at Ward Melville that had been noisy since 9 am suddenly became silent.
All eyes were on the final bout of the tournament, where Half Hollow Hills’ Ed Bae earned a 3-2 overtime victory in epee over Ward Melville Mike Jaklitsch to clinch the Suffolk tournament title.
Hills won the first title in the nine-year-old program’s history, winning 57 bouts in the round-robin tournament to edge Ward Melville (55) and Commack (44).
“It was the most nerve-wracking thing ever, but I didn’t let it get to me,” said Bae, who went 7-1.
“I didn’t think I’d ever cry because of fencing,” he added of the celebration afterwards, “but I came close because it’s my last year and for the first time in Hills history, we are county champs. It’s the greatest feeling I’ve ever had.”
Hills went into its matchup against Ward Melville with a 52-51 edge over the Patriots with nine bouts remaining. After falling behind, 55-54, Hills won the final three epee bouts to clinch the championship.
“All the emotions are flying out of me and to do this with my friends that I’ve been with the last four years has been amazing,” Justin Cho (8-0 in epee) said.
“It’s an unbelievable experience,” Kenneth Meserole (6-2 in sabre) said. “Four years ago, we weren’t in a position to be county champion. Since then, we’ve built up a team. All the coaches, all the teammates that have graduated since have helped us get to this moment.”
Hills also got a boost from the foil due of Paul Pimentel (6-2) and Aaron Berley (7-1)
The girls tournament came down to the wire as well, as Commack (56) won the tournament for the second straight year, edging perennial powers Ward Melville (54) and regular season champions Hills (50).
“It was so great to be able to pull together and win,” said Gabriella Musto, who went 6-2 and also won the individual sabre title, adding the victory was sweeter because of third-seeded Commack’s underdog role.
Commack and Ward Melville were tied at 49 heading into their final matchups, where Commack beat Huntington, 7-2, and Ward Melville beat Hills, 5-4.
“We proved all year we could pull through and we did it again today,” said Monica Kramer, who went 6-2 in foil.
“It was really exciting to face the pressure and do this,” said Jungsoo Ahn, who went 6-2 in epee and won the individual county title.
Stephanie Miller (8-0 in sabre), Amanda Loo (6-2 in foil), and Alexandra Gillis (7-1 in epee) also helped Commack defend its title.
Ward Melville’s Danny Solomon (boys sabre), Stephen Jackson (boys foil) and Lara Obedin (girls foil), and Brentwood’s Gevaughn Henry (boys epee) were the day’s other individual titlists.