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Taekwondo Wins at Princeton

By Grace Tan

TEAM MEMBER

The Sport Taekwondo Club placed first in the Ivy-Northeast Collegiate Taekwondo League (INCTL) tournament at Princeton University on March 1. MIT scored 310 points, closing the gap between them and the current INCTL point leader Cornell.

With over 300 competitors representing Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, NYU, Penn, Princeton, West Point, Yale and other schools, this was the largest tournament in INCTL history.

The day began with men’s and women’s black belt forms competition. Because of the large group (consisting of 60 men), the men were divided into two, and the best five of each division advanced to a second round. Among the final ten were three of MIT’s members, Timothy R. Kreider ’04, Conor Madigan G, and Richard Sinn ’06. Sinn took second place in a very close competition. Next were women’s black belt forms, in which Christina Park G once again demonstrated a strong form and placed second after winning a tiebreak.

Color belts show strength

The color belts continued to show dominance, beginning with men’s and women’s red belt forms. As participants in a strong group of men, George C. Whitfield ’03 won second place after winning the decision in the tiebreak against teammate Juan I. Rodriguez ’04, who took third. Taking the third place trophy in a competitive women’s division was Grace P. Tan ’03.

Later, Bobby Ren ’05 found himself in a three-way tie for first place in men’s green belt forms and came away with the bronze. Meanwhile, on the women’s side, Jaime Lien ’05 took first place. Teammate Grace Kim G initially tied for third, but in a very close tiebreak, she lost the bronze to a member of the Lehigh team.

Further fueling the Sport Taekwondo Club’s momentum were three of the team’s newest competitors: Keyuan Xu ’04, Ryan Huang ’06, and Stephanie Lee ’06. As participants in the consistently large and competitive white and yellow belt division, Xu and Huang demonstrated strength and control to grab the first and third places respectively, while Lee’s balance and poise earned her the silver.

B teams have mixed results

Sparring began with the black belts, followed by the C teams (white through green belt.). The last of the matches were the B teams (color belts). The club’s B2 team made their first showing with Jaime Lien ’05 sparring as the lightweight. Against a veteran competitor from Cornell, Lien dominated the first round. But having suffered an injury from a clash with her opponent, she was forced to bow out.

Kim, another member of a C team, stepped up but could not overcome the experienced opposition. Finally, Dora Kelle ’03 continued to spar as a heavyweight, and emerged from the loss of another difficult match against a much bigger competitor.

In the meantime, the men’s B1 team moved into round two, after receiving a bye, and faced Cornell B2. Representing the lightweight was Bobby Ren ’05, who sparred in A, B and C team sparring levels. Joshua Neubert ’03 sparred a controversial, close match and George Whitfield ’03 brought down Cornell’s B2 heavyweight with a 14-3 win to help advance the team to the quarterfinals against Brown. Neubert, in a nerve-wracking fight, won the judges’ decisions after the 9-9 tie. In one of the highest scoring match of the day, Whitfield edged out his competition 18-17.

The injured Ren used several techniques to keep his opponent close and minimize opportunities for getting kicked in order to maintain his body for another match.

The team moved onto the semifinals, where they faced NYU’s B1 team. Despite Neubert’s bye, Ren’s injuries kept him from kicking as hard as he would have preferred and Whitfield suffered a loss by judges’ decisions in the 5-5 tie. Regardless, these men took bronze in men’s B team sparring.

Men’s B2 takes second

Also helping to display the Sport Taekwondo Club’s dominance was the men’s B2 team. Stephen Kao ’04 faked his opponent several times and dominated over his first rival from West Point. Juan Rodriguez’s footwork and defensive moves left his foes unable to gain the advantage. Andrew Selbst was given a bye against West Point, but the team worked its way to face Cornell B1.

Using the tools that work for them, Kao and Rodriguez won their matches and let Selbst take on his first opponent. Despite a loss after a hard struggle, the B2 men moved into the semifinals against Harvard B1.

Kao was defeated by his Harvard opponent in a tight 2-3 match, but Rodriguez and Selbst sparred smart against tough opponents to win and advance the team to the finals, where they faced NYU. NYU had overtaken the club’s B1 team earlier.

After a long afternoon and evening of sparring, Kao, Rodriguez and Selbst eventually fell to NYU, taking second place.

Women’s B team victorious

Meanwhile, the B team women of Sport Taekwondo were kicking circles around their competition. Starting their day against a much taller team from Temple University, each of the three women won her match.

In the quarterfinals, Baochi Nguyen G took on the lightweight from Cornell B3 and won in a close 6-4 match.

Cecile LeCocq G, experiencing her first B team matches, was unable to defeat Cornell.

Another skilled B team member, Margaret H. Cho ’04, held back her high-section kicks but still won 7-1 and helped her team into the semifinals against Harvard.

Despite the loss of the lightweight match, LeCocq, a green stripe, was able to dominate in her match against a red belt who is in her third year of taekwondo. Given Harvard’s lack of a third team member, these women moved into the finals against long-time foe, Cornell B1.

Cornell’s lightweight pulled out of her match due to injury, a move that left the Sport Taekwondo Club just two matches away from a women’s B team first place trophy.

LeCocq threw her legs into her competition and after a hard match lost 2-6. Sparring conservatively, Cho consistently kept Cornell behind by one or two points. As the seconds counted down, she pulled ahead to end the match 5-3. The women of the B1 team took gold.

Season nearing close

Finishing the day 84 points ahead of Cornell, who has been the undisputed INCTL champion for several years, leaves the club neck-and-neck with Cornell for the INCTL Cup.

Junior Keyuan Xu commented, “Competing at the Princeton tournament greatly increased my sense of pride [for the team].”

The Sport Taekwondo Club brought almost 50 competitors down to New Jersey on March 1.

“The team’s spirit is intense, exciting and contagious. I was amazed as the sheer mass of our team dwarfed the other schools,” said Heather A. Doering ’05.

With hopes of building upon the momentum of the club’s performance during this 2002-2003 season, the teammates are preparing to chase for the championship.

Only two tournaments remain in the spring. These are to be held at Yale and Columbia in April and the Sport Taekwondo Club hopes to pull ahead to end Cornell’s reign.