Sunshine State Games Fencer Takes the Long Way to the Alachua County Festival

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Jake Thayer’s trip from San Antonio, Texas to the Sunshine State Games Fencing Championships in Gainesville took a detour through Richmond, Virginia.

A student athlete at the University of the Incarnate Word, Thayer (left in photo) left San Antonio early Friday morning for Richmond and the North American Cup (NAC) Fencing event. He competed Saturday in the Division 1 Foil competition in a group of 180 fencers, finishing among the top 100. More than 1,500 fencers from throughout the United States were in Richmond to compete.

He left Richmond, had a transfer in Charlotte, and arrived at the Gainesville airport around 10:00 p.m., Saturday night.

The Sunshine State Games Men’s Epee Division, with 16 participants, including Thayer, began at 8:30 a.m. at the Legacy Park Multipurpose Center, in Alachua, where Thayer began pool play.

“He just loves fencing,” said his mother Quincy Thayer, who had the opportunity to watch both of her sons at the Sunshine State Games, along with her husband, Ken (center in background of photo). “I asked him if he was sure he wanted to do all of that schedule and he said he couldn’t miss the Sunshine State Games.”

He and his brother, Bryce (right in photo), now 15, from Port Charlotte, have been fencing in the Games since 2014. The brothers were a few points from meeting in the Men’s Epee finals, as they both advanced to the semifinals. Jake defeated Demerio Steele, of the Miami Lakes Fencing Club, 15-9. Bryce came up short against the eventual gold medal winner, Jeremy Moore, of Maclenny, 15-13.

“I don’t know who I would have rooted for if they were both in the finals,” said the proud Thayer mom. “They’re both so competitive, especially against each other.

In the final Moore topped Thayer 15-11, with Moore scoring the final four points of the match after it reached an 11-11 tie.

“It was a combination of my footwork and distance that gave me better techniques all together,” said Moore about his final advance to 15 points and the gold medal. “I found flaws in his approach and he overstepped a few times that led to quick points for me at the end.”

Thayer rebounded from the loss and returned to the strip to win the Senior Men’s Saber gold medal.

With 24 total points, Epee Miami won the 2021 SSG Fencing Club Championship Trophy. Head Coach Junior Morales’ finished three points ahead of the Master’s Fencing Academy, also located in Miami.

Wrapping up two days of swimming at the Dwight H. Hunter Northeast Pool, Gainesville’s Gator Swim Club amassed 1,320 points over three days and 105 events to win the 2021 Team Championship from among the 15 teams participating.

The Gator Swim Club also had four of the eight age group High Individual Point Scorers. Nicholas Caruso and Camille DeBoer, both members of the Gator Swim Club, won the Boy’s and Girl’s High Point Trophy with 52 and 44 points, respectively.

Lilly Nesty, from the Gator Swim Club led the 13-14 year old girls with 54 points and with 56 points, Bryce LaBonte, of the Central Florida Marlins, topped the standings in the 13-14 year old boys.

Peyton Brooks, of Makos Aquatic Club, tallied 52 points, the most among the 11-12 year old girls and Samuel Ospina, of the Gator Swim Club had 54 points for the high among 11-12 year old boys.

In the 10 and Under Group, Maya Syzlkowski, of the Central Florida Marlins led the way and Davin Mathis, of the St. Cloud Aquatic Team was the individual leader. Each had 54 points.

The 42nd Annual Sunshine State Games continues next weekend with six sports in two different locations. Alachua County once again takes the stage with Archery and Artistic Swimming. Clay County, a first-time host of the Games presents Canoe/Kayak Marathon Races, Disc Golf, Pickleball and Ultimate.

The Sunshine State Games, Florida’s only Olympic-style Sports Festival, is presented annually by the Florida Sports Foundation, the official sports promotion and development organization of the State of Florida. The 2021 Games are presented in conjunction with Clay County Tourism and Airstream Ventures, the Gainesville Sports Commission, Florida’s Sports Coast and Polk County Sports Marketing. The Sunshine State Games is part of the state’s $57.4 billion sports industry that accounts for 580,000 jobs statewide.