On Saturday morning, Patrick Gao had a target on his back.
By the afternoon, the Great Neck North junior had a second consecutive county championship
Gao and teammate Griffen Healy won county titles in boys sabre and foil, respectively, and Wheatley’s Will Lee won in epee at the Nassau individual fencing championships at Oyster Bay.
On the girls side, Great Neck South’s Macy Meng continued her strong season with a title in epee, while Manhasset’s Elin Hu won in sabre and Garden City’s Tia Petrides won in foil.
“Last year, it was almost a surprise. This year, I was focused on defending my title,” said Gao, who defeated Garden City’s Donal Mahoney in the final. “It made it more of a challenge. I had a lot of people coming up to me, saying they knew me and remembered me. It was something to uphold.”
For Healy, the day’s lone senior champion, the championship marked the culmination of years of hard work, and this was glaringly evident on his final touch of the day against Jericho’s Chris Xu.
“On that last touch, I missed a counter attack, but I saw an opening and went behind him and nailed it,” Healy said. It was a move he said he had missed in the past, but was something he had worked on, and said this time, he felt “it was just going to happen.”
Lee called his win in epee over Jericho’s Bennett Cohen, the reigning champion, “exhilarating.”
“Bennett is an amazing fencer,” Lee added, “so I had to persevere and be patient. I drew him out and searched for my options.”
To win the girls epee title, Meng first had to first beat two-time reigning county champion and teammate Vera Lin in the semfinals, before beating Garden City’s Dessie DiMino In the finals.
“This season has been amazing, working with my coaches and teammates,” said Meng, who added she was thankful for the opportunity to fence with Lin over the years, her partner in the county’s top epee duo.
Petrides dedicated her win over teammate Elizabeth Strysko in foil to coach Michael Kreidman, who is retiring after the year.
“I’m lucky to have one of the greatest coaches ever. I wanted to make him proud,” she said.
In the girls sabre final, Hu fell behind Great Neck North’s Shannon Sarker, 11-7, before winning eight of the bout’s final nine points.
“I just had to buckle down and fight back,” Hu said. “I know I won, but it’s so surreal.”