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Thein-Sandler, Scruggs and Jenkins Win Junior Olympic Gold

02/14/2016, 4:30pm CST
By Nicole Jomantas

Cadet men's epee gold medalist Adi Thein-Sandler with Coach Eric Hansen. Photo Credit: Nicole Jomantas

(Cleveland, Ohio) – Sixteen-year-old Adrien Thein-Sandler (Topanga, Calif.) came into the USA Fencing Junior Olympic Championships as a hopeful for his first Cadet World Team and continued his quest to represent Team USA with a gold medal win in the cadet (U17) men’s epee event on Friday at the FirstMerit Convention Center of Cleveland.

Ranked fourth in the nation, Thein-Sandler entered the event as one of five athletes in contention for three positions on the Cadet World Championship Team.

By the end of the day, that number was narrowed to four with just the junior event on Sunday remaining before the Cadet World Team is finalized.

A single loss in the pool rounds put Thein-Sandler, the fourth-ranked fencer in the nation, into a 27th seed for the direct elimination rounds.

After a bye into the table of 128, Thein-Sandler defeated Gabriel Toltus (Scarsdale, N.Y.), 15-5, and won his next bout against Jack Kramer (Albuquerque, N.M.), 15-6.

Thein-Sandler won his table of 32 bout against Jared Petroll (Dallas, Texas), 15-12, and advanced to the quarter-finals with a 15-7 win against Anton Chmut (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

Thein-Sandler edged Devin Tafoya (Littleton, Colo.), 15-14, to secure a medal and a position in the semifinals against Stephen Ewart Jr. (Lancaster, Calif.) whose top-four finished had already guaranteed him a position on the Cadet World Team alongside top-ranked Sean Wilson (Houston, Texas).

Thein-Sandler took the win, 15-8, to advance to his second major final of the season against 2015 July Challenge bronze medalist Theodore Lombardo (Mount Kisco, N.Y.)

Lombardo took a 5-3 lead at the first break, but Thein-Sandler went on a 5-1 run before ending the second period with a 10-9 lead. In the third, Thein-Sandler gave up just two touches to win the bout, 15-11.

“Aside from the first four touches at the start of the bout, I knew I was fencing well enough and strong enough to get the touches. What I needed to do is increase my intensity as much as I could which I had been doing in the third period of my DEs all day. So I just left it all out on the strip,” Thein-Sandler said. “It feels like I did what I needed to do today. It feels like the resolution of all of my training and I’m really happy about it.”

The win allows Thein-Sandler to stay in contention for a position on the Cadet World Team when the squad is finalized on Sunday after the junior men’s epee event. He will be in a points race against third-ranked Nick Wilson (Houston, Texas) who is trying to join his twin brother Sean in qualifying to represent Team USA but Thein-Sandler maintains he will try not to focus on the stakes at hand.

“I try not to think about it, but I knew I needed to do as well as I could today and I know I need to do as well as I can in junior. I’m not going to do the calculations or anything, but of course it’s in my head because that’s what I’ve been preparing for,” he said.

The junior women’s saber final would feature two of the event's youngest athletes: 14-year-old Ryan Jenkins (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.) and 12-year-old Honor Johnson (Bethesda, Md.)

Jenkins blazed through her first two direct elimination bouts, defeating Madison Wulf (Greenville, S.C.), 15-4, and Erin Shea (Sammamish, Wash.), 15-7, to advance to the table of 32 where she won her bout against Mikaela Avakian (Arcadia, Calif.), 15-13.

Jenkins defeated Kristen Wong (Scarsdale, N.Y.), 15-8, in the 16 and Gillian Harrill (Chandler, Ariz.), 15-13, in the quarters.

In the semis, Jenkins won her bout against Brenda Yang (Skillman, N.J.), 15-7, to qualify for her first junior final at a national event.

A bronze medalist in the junior competition at the November North American Cup, Jenkins had a tough first period against Johnson, holding on to a narrow lead at 8-7. In the second period, however, Jenkins went on a 7-2 run to win the final, 15-9.

“In the first half, I wasn’t totally in it and I wasn’t fencing very well, but the second half I calmed down and it all clicked,” said Jenkins who noted that her coach, Daniel Costin (Culver City, Calif.) offered her key advice during the break. “He was telling me to calm down and not to rush forward which is what I had been losing a ton of touches on. He told me to stay calm and do what I know.”

Jenkins was joined on the podium by her twin sister, Morgan Jenkins (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.), who placed fifth.

“I’m still kind of in shock because it really hasn’t set in yet, but I’m happy,” Ryan Jenkins said. “I love it when we’re up there together because I’m really happy for her when she does well and I know she’s really happy for me when I do well and it’s fun because we both know what that feels like.”

While the junior women’s saber event in Cleveland counts towards Junior World Team qualification, Team USA will not be finalized until later in the month after two more qualifying events are held.

Less than a month after her 13th birthday, Lauren Scruggs (Ozone Park, N.Y.) won her first Junior Olympic title on Friday, taking gold in the cadet women’s foil event.

The reigning Y12 and Y14 National Champion earned the sixth seed in the direct elimination table and a bye into the table of 128 where she defeated Mackensie Nechanicky (Suwanee, Ga.), 15-10.

Scruggs left her next two opponents with single digit scores, defeating Isabella Ahn (New York City, N.Y.), 15-2, and Alyssa Chen (San Diego, Calif.), 15-8.

In the table of 16, Scruggs won her bout against May Tieu (Belle Mead, N.J.), 15-10, and went on to take a 15-7 win against Madeline Liao (Fresno, Calif.) in the quarters.

Scruggs defeated Natalie Minarik (Glen Oaks, N.Y.), 9-5, to advance to the gold medal final against Delphine DeVore (Westport, Conn.)

Although DeVore took an early lead at 5-2, Scruggs scored six touches to set the score at 8-7 by the break. Scruggs scored four straight at the start of the second period for a 12-7 lead before Devore answered with five touches of her own to end the period with a tie at 12. The two fencers swapped touches before Scruggs claimed the final touch and a 15-14 win.

“I was like ‘I just need one more touch and that’s it’ and then it was tied and I started freaking out a little bit, but then I regained my composure at the end,” said Scruggs who was pleased with her career best result in a domestic event. “It just shows that all my work and effort that I put into fencing has paid off.”

The three positions on the Cadet World Team also were set with three athletes mathematically qualified at the start of the weekend. Sylvie Binder (Armonk, N.Y.), a 2015 Cadet World bronze medalist, Stefani Deschner (Mechanicsville, Va.), a three-time Cadet World Team member, and Isabelle Elizondo (Cypress, Texas), a first-time team member who won gold on the Cadet European Circuit earlier this season.

In the junior men’s team saber event, Fencing Academy of Denver 1 won gold, 45-34, over PWF. Zeta Fencing defeated Peninsula Fencing, 45-35.

Click here to view complete results.

Top eight results are as follows:

Junior Olympic Championships Junior Women’s Saber
1. Ryan Jenkins (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.)
2. Honor Johnson (Bethesda, Md.)
3. Lark Izenson (Atlanta, Ga.)
3. Brenda Yang (Skillman, N.J.)
5. Morgan Jenkins (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.)
6. Lindsay Sapienza (Bardonia, N.Y.)
7. Gillian Harrill (Chandler, Ariz.)
8. Daniella Timofeyev (Antelope, Calif.)

Junior Olympic Championships Junior Team Men’s Saber
1. Fencing Academy of Denver 1
2. PWF
3. Zeta Fencing
4. Peninsula Fencing
6. Thrust Fencing Academy
7. Fencing Academy of Denver 2
8. Cobra

Junior Olympic Championships Cadet Men’s Epee
1. Adrien Thein-Sandler (Topanga, Calif.)
2. Theodore Lombardo (Mount Kisco, N.Y.)
3. Elias Cole (Chappaqua, N.Y.)
3. Stephen Ewart Jr. (Lancaster, Calif.)
5. Zach Kravitz (Los Angeles, Calif.)
6. Wolfe Crouse (Conroe, Texas)
7. Aidan Kung (Hacienda Heights, Calif.)
8. Devin Tafoya (Littleton, Colo.)

Junior Olympic Championships Cadet Women’s Foil
1. Lauren Scruggs (Ozone Park, N.Y.)
2. Delphine DeVore (Westport, Conn.)
3. Marissa Viqueira (Maplewood, N.J.)
3. Natalie Minarik (Glen Oaks, N.Y.)
5. Justine Banbury (East Grand Rapids, Mich.)
6. Sophia Mandour (Perry Hall, Md.)
7. Madeline Liao (Fresno, Calif.)
8. Rei Weintraub (New York, N.Y.)

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