By Jerry Del Priore
West Morris Central High School head girl’s fencing coach Gladys Berardi wanted to give her athletes a milestone to work for and hopefully reach during their high school student-athlete days.
That’s when she founded the Hundred Win Club for the fencing teams at the school, which is three years old. This season, two fencers hit that momentous mark: Katlin Cheung (girl’s foil) and Nate Mange (boy’s foil).
“Basketball has 1000 points as its (high school) accolade,” Berardi explained. “With each sport, there’s an important point to reach. Fencers need something to motivate them, so we have 100 wins for our fencers.”
She said it’s not that easy to achieve, since fencers may have to wait their turn to compete because of better teammates ahead of them on the depth chart. Sometimes, that means seeing limited action early on in their high school fencing careers. Plus, there are only so many bouts to participate in, in a season that’s just three months long,
When it is accomplished, it is a real monumental achievement.
Needing three wins to reach the 100-win mark, and no more foil events on the schedule, Berardi entered Cheung in the New Jersey State Epee competition.
To add a little extra encouragement, Berardi told Cheung she had 96 victories, instead of the 97 she owned.
“She needed a little more motivation,” Berardi said. “Hey, it worked. She won four of the six bouts in the state championships.”
Berardi sang the praises of Cheung, who always put in the extra effort to improve her fencing ability, as she trains and receives coaching at a private fencing academy in Whitehouse Station.
“She’s always worked hard,” Berardi said. “She’s a dedicated kid. She’s an all around great kid you’d like your son to come home with.”
Cheung said she put in the extra sweat-producing effort just for the sake of getting better in an unfamiliar sport that she grew to love, not to mention the exhilarating feeling of surpassing the 100-win mark.
“I think I can say I worked pretty hard,” said Cheung, who’ll be attending Rutgers University and fencing on the club team. “I knew nothing about the sport. I looked at all the sports the school had but fencing caught my eye and I figured a give it a shot.”
“I’m so happy I decided to try it out,” she continued. “I got to go to so many different places and meet different people.”
As for picking up the epee for the first time in competition, she said, “I’ve never used that weapon, and fenced against fencers who use that weapon all the time. Those four wins at the championships pushed me over the edge.”
Mange’s excellent senior year made his climb to the 100-win milestone a little easier, but no less thrilling, second-year boy’s head fencing coach Henry Crouse noted.
“He had quite the senior season,” Crouse said of Mange’s impressive performance this year. “He travels all around to compete to get better. He’s very dedicated to the sport.”
In addition, he said of the Wolfpack’s two-year captain who currently hasn’t made a college choice: “He’s a good student. He’s academically driven. He’ll be missed next year. I wish him nothing but the best in the future.”