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Hee, Litzinger and Eldeib Win Titles on Junior Olympics Opening Day

02/15/2014, 9:30pm CST
By Nicole Jomantas

Two-time Olympic Champion Mariel Zagunis presented Malia Hee with her trophy for winning the cadet women's saber title. Photo credit: Nicole Jomantas

(Colorado Springs, Colo.) – Sixteen-year-old Malia Hee (Vancouver, Wash.) has competed around the nation this season, but the saber fencer won her first Junior Olympic title 15 minutes from home on Friday at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland, Ore.

Hee, who won her first National Championship as a Division III fencer in 2011, was seeded third out of the pools and earned a bye into the table of 64 where she defeated Sogigie Sherfa (Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.), 15-4.

Hee won her next two bouts against Savannah Tiffany (Draper, Utah) and Francesca Fedorovsky (Los Angeles, Calif.) by 15-12 and 15-5 scores, respectively.

In the quarter-finals, Hee took a quick lead with three straight touches against Laura Donovan (Wellesley Hills, Mass.), but Donovan came back to tie the bout at five. Hee regained the lead, 8-6, at the break and went on to win the bout, 15-10.

Hee found herself trailing Gabrielle Tartakovsky (Livingston, N.J.) by six touches, 8-2, at the break in the semis. Hee went on a six-touch run to tie the bout at 12 in the second period and, ultimately, take a 14-12 lead. After two scores by Tartakovsky, Hee finished the bout, 15-14, to advance to the gold medal final in her second ever appearance at a Junior Olympics.

The gold medal final would be a battle of two Portland natives as Hee faced off against Tara Hassett (Beaverton, Ore.)

Hassett scored the first four touches of the bout and led Hee, 8-3, after the first period.

“At the half, my coach told me that I was rushing. I was standing up. I wasn’t moving on defense. I just needed to push myself. I talk to myself a lot when I fence, so I knew I needed to use my words and tell myself that I could do it,” Hee said.

With Hassett leading the bout, 11-8, Hee scored three to tie the bout at 11 and took four of the next five to earn the victory, 15-12.

“I still can’t even believe that I actually won it! Last season, I wasn’t doing too well, but I’ve been working really hard and it’s paid off,” said Hee who noted that it was nice fencing at home, but she didn’t think much about competing in front of a local crowd. “I really didn’t focus on being in my hometown. I just focused on each fencer. It was cool having all my family and all my friends from around the country here, though.”

The Cadet Women’s Saber World Team will not be finalized until after the conclusion of the junior event on Sunday, but the results on Friday made an impact on the standings. With Sarah Merza (Wayne, N.J.) and Riya Dave (Ardsley, N.Y.) guaranteed two of the three positions on the team due to their domestic and international results this season, one position remains open and four athletes are in contention, including Portland natives Hassett and Mary Barnett (Lake Oswego, Ore.) as well as Regina O’Brien (Wellesley Hills, Mass.) whose bronze medal allowed her to pass Violet Michel (Cambridge, Mass.) in the rankings where O’Brien is now currently third.

A bronze medalist at the 2012 Cadet Worlds, Harvard freshman Ace Eldeib (Burke, Va.) won his first Junior Olympic gold medal in the junior men’s epee event after a six-month break from competition.

“This season I only fenced two NACs because I’d taken a little bit of a break. Last year was a rough year, so I took six months off from competition and three months off from practice,” said Eldeib who came down with mono twice last season and was hospitalized last summer.

Seeded 14th out of pools, Eldeib earned a bye into the table of 128 where he defeated Vikram Aggarwal (Englewood, Colo.), 15-3.

Eldeib won his table of 64 bout over Cole Mallette (Keizer, Ore.), 15-9, and advanced to the table of 16 after a 15-11 win over Conrad Sutter (Annapolis, Md.)

Eldeib defeated Gary North (Englewood, Colo.), 15-10, and Nicholas Hanahan (Indianapolis, Ind.), 15-8, to qualify for the semis where he would fence Anton Piskovatskov (Houston, Texas)

Although Eldeib and Piskovatskov split their last two bouts in the Division I event at the January North American Cup, Eldeib led their semifinal bout, 8-4, after the first period and only gave up four touches in the second to win the bout, 15-8.

The gold medal final would be a rematch for Eldeib as well since his opponent, 2012 Junior World Team member and Notre Dame sophomore Garrett McGrath (Maricopa, Ariz.), had defeated Eldeib in the table of 16 of the junior competition at the January NAC.

With the score tied at eight after the first period, Eldeib scored seven of the next nine touches and took gold with a 15-10 victory.

“The beginning of the bout with Garrett was probably the most nervous for me. I know how to fence him, but it’s still a difficult game to play,” said Eldeib. “Last month was the first tournament I fenced in awhile and that went fairly well, but I’m happy to be back and am enjoying fencing a lot more now.”

At the conclusion of the epee competition, the Junior Epee World Team was announced. The three athletes who will fence in both the individual and team competition are 2013 Junior World Team member Lewis Weiss (Houston, Texas) and first-time team members Justin Yoo (La Verne, Calif.) and Joshua Cole (Chappaqua, N.Y.)

When Temple University freshman Miranda Litzinger (Los Gatos, Calif.) first began competing, she was one of the top foil fencers in the Y10 category and went on to win a silver medal at the National Championships as a Y14 fencer.

Although Litzinger continued fencing, her ascent slowed as she entered the cadet and junior categories, but she was back on top on Friday with a gold medal win in the junior women’s foil event – her first title at a tournament in which Litzinger’s previous best result was 10th in 2012.  

Litzinger finished the junior women’s foil pools with a 3-2 record and a 52nd seed in the table of 128 where she defeated Evelyn Barnes (San Francisco, Calif.), 13-5.

Litzinger won her next two bouts by 15-12 scores against Polly Adler (Scarsdale, N.Y.) and Naomi Popkin (Ridgewood, N.J.) to advance to the table of 16 where she defeated Natalie Yang (Colts Neck, N.J.), 12-8.

In the quarter-finals, Litzinger shut out Sarah Pak (Upper Saddle River, N.J.), 15-0.

“Sometimes I’ve made the mistake of fencing for the shutout and that’s when you lose usually, but today I was just like ‘one more touch’ because if you think ‘I’ve won this,’ then you start making mistakes,” Litzinger said.

Litzinger gave up just four touches in the semis to Jade Rowland (Princeton Junction, N.J.) as she advanced to the gold medal final with a 15-4 victory.

“At the beginning of the day, I wasn’t fencing very well and then I just started having fun and that’s when I had the 15-0 and 15-4,” Litzinger said.

In the final bout, Liana Semel (Carmel, N.J.) held a 5-4 lead at the end of the first period and opened the second with four straight touches, but Litzinger responded with four of her own to cut Semel’s lead to 9-8.

Semel scored the first touch of the third, but Litzinger said it was a change to her own thought process that helped her in the final period.

“I started thinking to myself that I have been fencing for 11 years and I’ve come this far and I need to do this right now,” she said.

The mindset adjustment worked and Litzinger who took the next seven of the next eight to win the bout, 15-11.

“I love fencing and there was a sort of lapse these last couple years, but now I hope to bring the passion back and have new confidence because I think I was shaken for a little while because I did really well in Y10 and Y12 and Y14 and then I didn’t medal in cadet at all so this is a big jump because I haven’t medaled in juniors either,” Litzinger said. “I’ve been very consistent with top 16 and top 32 finishes, but there was just a threshold and how it’s been broken and really broken, not just top eight, but actually winning.”

The Junior Women’s Foil World Team was announced at the end of the evening and will include London Olympian Lee Kiefer (Lexington, Ky.), three-time Junior World team medalist Jackie Dubrovich (Riverdale, N.J.) and 2013 Cadet World silver medalist Sabrina Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.) The athlete who will fence in the team event will be announced at a later date.

In addition to individual events, the first team competition of the weekend was held on Friday with the hometown Oregon Fencing Alliance 1 team taking gold after a 45-39 win over the New York Athletic Club.

In the bronze medal final, Fencing Academy of Denver 1 made up a three touch deficit after the eighth bout to defeat Hristov-Csikany Fencers, 45-44.

Click here to view complete results.

Top eight results are as follows:

Cadet Women’s Saber
1. Malia Hee (Vancouver, Wash.)
2. Tara Hassett (Beaverton, Ore.)
3. Regina O’Brien (Wellesley Hills, Mass.)
3. Gabrielle Tartakovsky (Livingston, N.J.)
5. Rose Adams (Sacramento, Calif.)
6. Laura Donovan (Wellesley, Mass.)
7. Sarah Merza (Wayne, N.J.)
8. Madeline Curzon (Wilsonville, Ore.)

Junior Men’s Epee
1. Alexander Eldeib (Burke, Va.)
2. Garrett McGrath (Maricopa, Ariz.)
3. Dante Centeno (Lynbrook, N.Y.)
3. Anton Piskovatskov (Houston, Texas)
5. Nicholas Hanahan (Indianapolis, Ind.)
6. Justin Yoo (La Verne, Calif.)
7. Nicholas Campbell-Kruger (Boulder, Colo.)
8. Esteban Sanchez (League City, Texas)

Junior Women’s Foil
1. Miranda Litzinger (Los Gatos, Calif.)
2. Liana Semel (Carmel, N.Y.)
3. Morgan Partridge (Swansea, Mass.)
3. Jade Rowland (Princeton Junction, N.J.)
5. Sarah Pak (Upper Saddle River, N.J.)
6. Zuzu Tang (Bellevue, Wash.)
7. Gabriella Zusin (New York, N.J.)
8. Annabel Hou (Diamond Bar, Calif.)

Junior Men’s Team Saber
1. OFA 1
2. NYAC
3. Fencing Academy of Denver 1
4. Hristov-Csikany Fencers
5. Laguna Fencing Center
6. San Diego Fencing Center
7. SAS
8. PDX Team Green

The Junior World Teams selected on Friday from the National Team Point Standings are as follows:

Junior Men’s Epee World Team
Lewis Weiss (Houston, Texas)
Justin Yoo (La Verne, Calif.)
Joshua Cole (Chappaqua, N.Y.)
ALT 1: Alex House (Upton, Mass.)
ALT 2: Gabe Canaux (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
ALT 3: Noah Adamitis (Kirkville, N.Y.)

Junior Women’s Foil World Team
Lee Kiefer (Lexington, Ky.)
Jackie Dubrovich (Riverdale, N.J.)
Sabrina Massialas (San Francisco, Calif.)
ALT 1: Margaret Lu (Greenwich, Conn.)
ALT 2: Iman Blow (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
ALT 3: Sara Taffel (New York City, N.Y.)

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