RANDOLPH _ Described as bubbly and effervescent by one of her coaches, Morris Hills' Frances Lee is the perfect fencer to start off dual meets.
"Frances is the first bout and it sets the tone for everything," said Lisa Campi-Sapery. "On old-fashioned teams, she'd be called a spitfire. She's all energy and gives everyone energy. Frances is exciting to watch. She's vibrant and galvanizes the team, male and female. She's our inspirational leader."
On Saturday, Jan. 6, the Cornell-bound Lee was all of those superlatives and more.
Lee claimed individual honors in sabre, leading the Scarlet Knights to their second team title at the Morris County Fencing Championships held at Randolph High School. Morris Hills, which had 59 points, edged out Mendham (57 points) to capture the team crown for the second time in five years.
"I can't believe it," Lee said. "I really can't. I had the entire team behind me. I was fencing for myself and the team. It's never just me."
Mendham's Sara Persau, a senior, was top notch in foil, securing the third MCFC title of her high school career. In 2017, Persau was second. Junior Abby Gringeri of Morristown emerged as epee champion after a fence off.
In the afternoon, Lee posted a 5-0 record to finish atop the field in her weapon. Although her record indicates perfection, she did not breeze through her bouts. During the morning session, she fell to Chatham freshman Kailing Sathyanath and had to face her again after the break. She fell behind, 4-2, before rallying and prevailing, 5-4. Lee, who attained the decisive point with a touch to her opponent's mask, had to dig extra deep to pull out the victory over Sathyanath.
"I got scared when it was 4-2," Lee said. "I had to fight. I took a breath and cleared my head. I said 'Let's do this.'" I knew she'd come right at me. I took some steps forward then I retreated and kept my distance. I went back again and she fell short. That's when I hit her on the mask."
Second individual as a sophomore, Lee, hoping to major in mechanical engineering or aerospace at Cornell, felt she had it in her to take first place and she was right. The Morris Hills girls sabre squad, comprised of Lee, Katie Zhang and Anastasia Herren, was first, too.
"It was nice to see," said Campi-Sapery. "They've all been working so hard. They put quite a bit of pressure on themselves."
Later that night, the Lee and several of her teammates planned to bake for Campi-Sapery's birthday.
Persau met her objectives - not doing anything complicated and fencing clean - in her MCFC finale.
"This is the last time I'll compete in counties so it was a good ending," Persau said. "I had fun. I had a good run in the counties. I didn't overdo it. I fenced smart. Simplicity was my goal."
Gingeri, a district champion last fall, engaged in a fence off with Mendham's Sophia Glasner. The bout was her second of the day versus Glasner and it put her on edge.
"It was difficult because I fenced (Glasner) already and I lost," Gingeri said. "My dad helped calm me down. I stuck to single attacks and didn't do anything too crazy."
Her father, John, and mother, Melissa, serve as coaches for the Colonials program. Her parents were both standout fencers at Rutgers University.
Gingeri, a cross country runner and participant in track in the spring, did not plan to celebrate after notching her first MCFC title. She had another idea.
"I'm going to take a nap," she said.
***PHOTO GALLERY BELOW***