Ardsley senior fencer Emily Jiang’s skill set is unmatched in the section. But when she took her first steps on the fencing strip, she was far from a national-caliber competitor.
“I really was drawn to the sport because it was a challenge,” this week’s Con Edison Athlete of the Week said. “When I first started, I was really bad at it, and it made me want to do it more.”
Whereas most fencers start training in elementary school, Jiang’s first experience wasn’t until seventh grade. At the time, she never imagined competing. It wasn’t until her mother, Julia Jiang, came across fencing on television that she even knew it existed. Her mother thought the sport was an interesting concept and asked Emily to try it out.
Varsity coaches Kathleen Reckling and her mother, Diane Reckling, remember Jiang as a “shy fencer” when she arrived at Ardsley. Jiang was initially intimidated by Ardsley’s elite status as a program. But once she stepped on the strip, there was one thing apparent to the Recklings — Jiang accepted all challenges.
“Coming into a sport at 13 is a little late, but with Emily it didn’t matter,” Kathleen Reckling said. “She doesn’t like to get beaten.”
Jiang quickly developed into a formidable fencer, but her dominance of the sport didn’t become apparent until the summer nationals last year.
“The light bulb definitely came on for Emily at nationals,” Kathleen said.
During nationals, Jiang took home the bronze medal in the Division II championships and was a finalist in the Division IA championships.
“I really wanted to impress college-recruiting scouts because it was my junior summer,” Jiang said. “What helped me a lot was my mental preparation for my bouts. You know, emotional fencers aren’t really good.”
Her success gained attention from top academic institutions such as Columbia, Duke, Yale and Michigan. But her brain and heart fell for the University of Pennsylvania, where she will study business at the prestigious Wharton School.
Jiang has been on the honor roll all four years of high school, completing eight AP courses. She scored a 36 composite on her ACT and is a member of the National and Spanish Honor Societies. She will graduate as her class salutatorian.
“Emily Jiang is the real deal,” Ardsley High School counselor Erica Hezi said in an email. “Academically, Emily is brilliant. She has taken the most rigorous course of study available at Ardsley High School and excelled.”
Athletic director Hank Roth couldn’t agree more.
“In my 20 years as Ardsley Athletic Director, I can honestly say I have never come across a more well rounded student athlete,” Roth said in an email. “She is bright, articulate, personable, friendly and approachable.”