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Saturday, May 25 News

Westporter stands out in fencing circuit

Piano. Chess. Fencing.

It sounds like the start of The Most Interesting Man in the World advertisement. Instead, though, it’s the life of Staples High School freshman Jake McGillion-Moore, who went from novice fencer to one of the top foil fencers in his age group in less than two years.

McGillion-Moore cemented his place with a gold medal at the Northeast Region Y14 competition, held at Lilov Fencing Academy in Cedar Grove, N.J. this past weekend.

McGillion-Moore lost one bout in pool play, but posted a perfect 5-0 record in the knockout round to take top spot. He was seeded third in a field of 33 fencers and was top by the end of the event.

“I was pretty proud to win my region,” said McGillion-Moore. “It was one of the bigger tournaments I’ve been in. Last year I finished in the top 16. This time I fenced much better than I did last year overall.”

The win was just one of several standout accomplishments from McGillion-Moore, who will compete in a tournament in Baltimore in 2017 that will feature many of the top fencers from across the eastern part of the country.

It first began as a sibling bonding activity with his sister Katie at a club in Wilton. He caught on quickly, though, and almost immediately began to invest more time in the sport. Both quickly found a home at Fairfield Fencing Academy in Fairfield, and Jake received lessons twice a week under coach Jim Roberts, who has been head coach at the club for four years.

“He’s definitely pretty talented for his age and time in the sport,” Roberts said. “He works really hard, and a lot of the time a fencer’s talents come from hard work at the club. He’s also very receptive to anything that is taught to him.”

McGillion-Moore — who also takes piano lessons and has a passion for chess and reading — believes his interests may have made the transition into fencing somewhat easier.

“There is a lot and thinking behind fencing,” said McGillion-Moore, referring to the multitude of split-second decisions that often determine the outcome of a match. “It’s similar to chess where think about everything you do; you’re showing something all the time, and I the mental aspect was my strong point.”

He originally began as an epee — the heaviest of the three swords used in the sport and the one where the whole body is a target — but was switched to foil. Foil is most common with new fencers and McGillion-Moore quickly enjoyed that iteration, which was Roberts’ speciality.

McGillion-Moore — who competed in a tournament for the first time in November, 2014 — can earn points towards the national circuit with top finishes at monthly tournaments like the one held in New Jersey.

“Moments like regionals show Jake has a lot of potential in his fencing career,” Roberts said.

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There are only several students at Staples — who hopes to start a team in the future —who fence, but it is a rapidly growing interest around the county. New clubs are appearing including Fairfield, which opened its doors in 2011 and has grown into one of the most competitive facilities in the state.

“It has grown exponentially,” Roberts said. “There are many clubs opening and many high school programs are being started.”

McGillion-Moore said that fencing in college is another goal, though as a freshman there is plenty of time yet to make his mark on the youth circuit.

“It’s nice to know I’m pretty good at it because I really like it,” McGillion-Moore said. “There’s much more incentive to focus on it and keep improving.”

rlacey@bcnnew.com, twitter.com/ryanlacey11

Ryan Lacey|Reporter