Easter break held a lot of excitement for the fledgling chess team from St. Mary School, Middletown, as representatives and their families traveled to Dallas, to compete in the United States Chess Federation Junior High School National Tournament, held April 25 -28.
Accompanied by their coach, Pat Melosh, and his wife, Mary, the young team faced a field of 44 teams representing more than 300 students in their first major tournament. In spite of some apprehension at the sheer scale of the event, the Saints, who moved to 33rd place after Round 1 and tied for 12th place after Round 5, experienced a few tough matches and ended the tournament in 25th place.
Competing chess team members included fourth-graders Caden Morgan, Julianne Frohnhoefer, and Matthew Orio; fifth-grader Eamon Boyle; sixth-grader Jason McGuire; and seventh-grader Alyssa Orio.
One highlight of the tournament was the accomplishment of McGuire who won 5.5 of his first six matches before losing in the final round, which would have ensured him of a top three finish.
McGuire finished 14th in the country out of 323 students in his section, a notable accomplishment for the young man who accepted his trophy proudly with Coach Melosh.
The idea for the SMS Chess Team originated with Coach Melosh who inquired about offering chess as an after-school club for the students in grades K-eight. The response exceeded expectations, and the students were 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.