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Bobby B. Ren
Maksim Stepanenko ’12 throws a head kick while competing in the Men’s B Team division at the Eastern Collegiate Taekwondo Conference.
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On Sunday, Feb. 19, the MIT Sport Taekwondo team moved closer to the league championship title by taking first at the third Eastern Collegiate Taekwondo Conference (ECTC) tournament hosted by Princeton University. At the end of the day, MIT stood in first place with 409 points, leading Division I rival Cornell, who finished at 347 points. With a team of 44 athletes, MIT made sure to show tremendous team spirit and composure throughout the day.

The team opened the day with an outstanding performance in the poomsae, or forms, competition. In the black belt division, co-captain Erika Lee ’12 and Michelle W. Chen ’14 clinched first and third place respectively. Red belts Maksim Stepanenko ’12 and Lorraine “Lori” Ling G both took third in their divisions. Blue belts Isaac Fenta ’14 and Tam Nguyen ’13 both took second place in the men’s and women’s divisions. Green belt Keren M. Greenbaum ’14 earned fourth in her division, while yellow belt Sarah J. Bricault G made it to the finals of her division.

Shortly after the poomsae competition finished, the sparring competition began. Intense training over IAP paid off as the team overcame their opponents. Coached by head instructor Dan Chuang, the men’s A1 team (Edgardo “Eddie” Farias ’15, Seth Matthew Weinberg G, Ijeoma “EJ” Emeagwali ’12) earned their first gold of the season. Freshman lightweight Farias won a critical match during the finals against Johns Hopkins University by a score of 14-2, with several well-timed headshots. Team co-captain Weinberg sparred above his weight category and still dominated his matches with ease and grace. With scores of 8-2 and 16-4 in the finals and semi-finals respectively, he played a critical role in leading the team to the top.

The women’s A1 team (Tara P. Sarathi ’12, Chen, Lee) met Cornell University during the quarterfinals and overcame their tough rival. Team co-captain Sarathi avenged a loss last year and shut down her opponent’s head kick, scoring a clean head kick of her own en route to a perfect 4-0 win. Chen fought a league “All-Star”, scoring two points on a cut kick as the opponent tried to dodge her. She narrowly missed a head shot in the closing seconds but finished a very close 2-4. Lee continued her year-long undefeated streak, winning all three of her matches. The women’s A1 team was awarded a bronze for their fantastic performance against some of the toughest opponents in the tournament.

The men’s B1 team (Ryan A. Rosario ’12, Stepanenko, Philip H. Daniel ’13) advanced to the semifinals over Duke University B1 with impressive scores of 14-2, 9-1 and 10-1, earning a bronze medal on the day. The men’s B2 team (George T. Cheng ’14, Fenta, Victor Nevarez ’12) made their B-team debut in style. Cheng won 10-0 against SUNY Cortland, and Fenta won 6-1 against Brown University to clinch the other bronze medal in the B-team division, an excellent result for a young B-team.

The women’s B1 team (Tiffany A. Chen ’12, Shannon X. Yang ’13, Ling) won silver after taking MIT back into the final match of the day. The women’s B2 (Stephanie P. Chen ’12, Teresa “Ty” Lin ’12, Mengfei Yang ’12) defeated a team from the University of Michigan but lost to a very strong Cortland team. Mengfei Yang won 5-0 and 4-0 in both matches with her strategic right short kicks. The women’s B3 team (Nguyen, Hilary T. Monaco ’12) put up a tough fight against Brown’s B1 team.

For the men’s C division, MIT put up six teams, the largest number of C teams in MIT’s history. Most of the members earned their yellow belts recently over IAP, and all teams did extremely well. The men’s C3 (Michael I. Hernandez ’13, Diego A. Giraldez ’15) made it to the quarterfinals. The women’s C1 team (Jessica J. Yang ’15, Casey L. Denham ’15, Bricault) inherited MIT’s fighting spirit by clinching their first bronze at the tournament.

By the end of the day, MIT was proud to take home the first place trophy. However, training for the team definitely does not stop there. Next up will be the National Collegiate Taekwondo Championships, hosted by the MIT Sport Taekwondo Club on April 7–8 at the Johnson Athletic Center. The event will be open to the public with a $10 admission fee for the weekend. Don’t miss the opportunity to witness some of the finest sparring matches in the country, or the chance to cheer MIT on as they vie for their fifth national title!