Just two years ago, Robert William Stanton, grandson of East Hampton resident Precious Joy Sauls, was a newcomer to fencing. But he took to the sport quickly and found early success, making history in 2011 as the first African-American competitor to make the Junior Olympics from Oregon, his home state—and the first African-American athlete to win a gold medal in interscholastic fencing.
Stanton, 17, has now proved his mettle in the Northeast ranks. After transferring to the Masters School in Dobbs Ferry, New York, in September of last year, he won the boys saber division of the Westchester League and led Masters to a 12-0 record and the league championship. In the individual tournament of the boys saber division, which was held in February, Stanton went 18-1 and easily swept through his competition, with a 93-24 edge in touches scored vs. touches received, which resulted in an impressive indicator of 69.
“I came in with quite a bit of training,” Stanton said. “I knew was going to do well, but I didn’t know I was going to be that successful.”
A few weeks after winning the individual tournament, Stanton turned to the team tournament on February 16, where his team went undefeated to win the league title. During the regular season, Stanton led Masters to a 7-1 record in boys saber. The team had an indicator of 112, which was 43 points above second-place Hackley.
Stanton, who likes to go by Will, has been boarding at Masters since he transferred there from the Oregon Episcopal School in Portland. He said he liked the change of scenery. “It’s a nice change,” he said. “There’s a lot more competition—for fencing, at least.”
Stanton and his mother, Carol Adrienne Smith, who graduated from East Hampton High School, venture out to the East End to visit family during the summer months. With one more year left at Masters, the Stantons have begun a college search.
A few years ago, Stanton was looking solely at Ivy League schools, such as Columbia or Yale, to fence. But he doesn’t want to limit his search and is now looking at NCAA Division I schools, such as Penn State, Notre Dame and Duke, and very successful Division III colleges, such as Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He’s still looking at Ivy League schools, though—in particular, UPenn and Harvard.
Next up for Stanton will be USA Fencing’s 2013 National Championships, which start this Friday and run till Sunday, July 7. It will be Stanton’s second appearance at Nationals. Last year, he finished 65th out of 250 competitors in the Junior Division.
“Last time, I did not do as well,” he said. “I’m hoping to do better than that. I’m trying to finish in the top eight.”