Vaiani siblings each take 2nd at state championships

In the world of high school fencing, the gap between a state champion and runner-up is very narrow.

At Sunday’s NJSIAA Fencing Championships at Montgomery High School, Christian Brothers Academy junior John Vaiani came up on the back end of that narrow gap during the boys’ foil championship bout.

“I definitely knew it would be a tough competition,” said Vaiani, a 17-year-old from Wall who lost in a fence-off to Newark Academy freshman George Haglund. “When you’re tied for first place in victories after the round-robin, you go to a fence-off, which goes to five touches. And when it goes to five touches, it’s basically a coin toss. If you get behind by a couple of touches it’s really hard to overcome, and George got a couple on me early.”

Haglund ended up outscoring Vaiani in the fence-off, 5-1, to capture the state title. Albert Zhang of North Hunterdon finished third, while defending champion Drew Johnston of Hunterdon Central took fourth.

“I’m a little disappointed because I finished second last year,” Vaiani said. “I wanted to get gold this year. But it’s not terrible. There’s always next year. I’ll just keep working hard and we’ll see what happens.”

Following the boys’ foil final, Vaiani’s sister, Nicole, a freshman at the Ranney School, competed in the girls’ foil championship, falling short against Sarak Pak of Northern Highlands.

“Finishing second is pretty good, because I was aiming for a top-four finish,” she said. “I’m proud of where I placed.”

Pak went 7-1 en route to the crown, while Vaiani finished 6-2 during the round-robin tournament. Kristen Kemnitzer of West Windsor-Plainsboro South swiped third place and Kristen Coury of Bernards was fourth.

Vaiani lost 5-4 to Coury and 4-2 to Pak during the round-robin.

“They were really short bouts,” she said. “I fenced Coury first so I probably should have prepared a little better before that bout. And I fenced Pak toward the end of the round, so I was a bit tired and she was really good. It was a tough comeptition, but I’m happy with where I ended up.”

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