The Saint Mary School Chess Team sent representatives and their families to Dallas, Texas over the Easter break to compete in the United States Chess Federation Junior High School National Tournament. Accompanied by their coach, Pat Melosh and his wife Mary, the team traveled with little or no real expectation, as this was their first major tournament which was held from April 25th to April 28th. So, as you can imagine, the students were somewhat overwhelmed by the travel, number of contestants (44 teams representing over 300 students), and sheer scale of the event. However, it became apparent very quickly that the Saints were not “just happy to be there”. With 44 teams entered, the Saints were tied for 33rd after Round 1, moved up to 24th after Round 2, fell a bit to 26th after Round 3, climbed to 19th after Round 4, and miraculously tied for 12th after Round 5. At the conclusion of Round 6, the Saints were still holding their own in 14th place. The last and most difficult round saw the Saints face very stiff competition and, while they gave a good account of themselves, they lost a few tough matches, ending the tournament in 25th place.
One highlight of the tournament was 6th grader Jason McGuire who won 5.5 of his first 6 matches before losing in the final round which would have ensured him of a top 3 finish. Jason finished 14th in the country out of 323 students in his section! That’s an incredible accomplishment for Jason who accepted his trophy proudly with his Coach Melosh. The Saints who competed in this prestigious tournament were: 4th graders Caden Morgan, Julianne Frohnhoefer, and Matthew Orio; 5th grader Eamon Boyle; 6th grader Jason McGuire; and, 7th grader Alyssa Orio.
The idea for the SMS Chess Team originated when Coach Melosh inquired about offering chess as an after-school club for the students in grades K-8. The response was so great, and the students so committed, that the natural next step was to build a team to compete in tournaments. With each new entry in tournaments at area schools and Brookdale Community College, the team improved and honed their skills, culminating in their fine showing at the United States Chess Federation Junior High School National Tournament. We are truly excited for the future of the 1st year SMS Chess Team.
On a final note, the SMS Chess Team sported team shirts with a slogan on the back that read, “We play chess at and pray like champions”. Coach Melosh and the team members received many compliments regarding their shirts as they had their Catholic identity front and center!