Newburgh, NY- April 3, 2017 – It’s a significant challenge to take on the Sport of Kings and five long years in the making for this dedicated group of local teens. Newburgh’s own Gardnertown Polo Club will make its premier appearance at the National Finals of the United States Polo Association’s Interscholastic Tournament (www.uspolo.org/association/programs/intercollegiate-interscholastic) on April 26-30 at Cornell University.
Their opponents will be strong and experienced high school level teams from around the country. Representing the SE is the Marlan Farms Maryland Polo Club (www.marylandpoloclub.com) team under formidable Coach Kelly Wells. From the Central region will be the Houston Polo Club (www.houstonpoloclub.com) and the Western regional group is from the Coastal California Polo Club/ Santa Barbara. These four teams and last year’s National Champs, Prestonwood from Oak Point TX, will compete for the title.
Gardnertown advanced to the nationals after the team gained momentum by defeating a quick and skilled group from Country Farm, (country-farms.com) located in Bellport NY, 25-7 with Captain Pierre Chaux leading the team in scoring with 10 goals. The closing game against a well mounted Epic Polo Club of Saratoga NY also had Chaux leading the team in scoring with 7 goals and a winning score of 20-7.
Coach Dan Scott remarked “The preparation and skill level that these teams have brought to this tournament shows their dedication to both the sport and each other. We are very fortunate to have such hard working kids on both the Level I and Level II teams. What they have done this year is an outstanding example of homegrown talent that set goals for themselves and went about working to achieve them. Appearing at the National Championships will be something they get to remember for the rest of their lives.”
The team from the Gardnertown Polo club consists of high scorer and Captain Pierre Chaux 17, from Englewood Cliffs NJ, whose parents have long valued the sport in their home country of Argentina and appreciate finding a place for their sons to learn the skills needed to excel. John Dencker 16, from Newburgh NY, the youngest team member who also plays football and lacrosse, has been around horses his whole life and has risen to the challenge of tournament play on many levels. Matt Forbes 17, another local athlete from Newburgh NY, who was recently selected as manager of both the football and basketball teams at Newburgh Free Academy. Double sport player Joe Post 17, also from Newburgh NY, splits his time between soccer and the polo arena, using skills from both to develop the patience and focus to win.
In addition, Gardnertown Polo had a second Open Team at the NE Regionals. The up-and-coming Gardnertown II, won a USPA Northeast Preliminary on Feb. 19, 2017 to advance. Comprised of Matteo Chaux 14, of Englewood Cliffs NJ, Nick DiValentino 14, of Newburgh NY and Winston Painter 13 of Redding CT. While playing hard at regionals, they won their first game against Cornell 19-10 but fell to a strong Epic team in the second game 8—14.
During the event, the all-star players are chosen by all participants. Noteworthy, was the choice of John Dencker and Joe Post from Gardnertown I and Winston Painter Gardnertown II to be 3 of the 4 members picked.
“They have been competing together since 2012, and this has been their breakthrough season, having beaten adult teams in two USPA Arena Challenge Cup tournaments while preparing for the Interscholastic Finals, the fire is there and it shows.” Scott continued.
International polo star Andres Weisz, formerly of the Lucchese Polo Team, has seen many young players begin their careers in this style of tournament. He underscored the value of experiencing the fundamentals of the game at all levels and the need for hours of horse time. “When these kids played at the Southampton Polo Club last summer they proved with their sportsmanship and attitude, they had potential to go far. It was their seriousness and focus that made them stand out. Surrounded by supportive family and friends, it’s evident that this sort of mindset was instilled from their coaches and parents. My sons, Mackenzie and Christian wish them well and look forward to meeting them again on and off the field.”
The United States Polo Association (USPA) holds the Interscholastic Open Finals each year, rotating the venue between the four regions of the US. This year the Northeast will host the finals at Cornell University’s Oxley Arena.
The backbone of the local program has been provided by Coaches Bill Dencker owner of the Gardnertown Polo Club in addition to Gardnertown Full Service Equine Facility (www.gardnertownfarm.com) and Dan Scott, seasoned trainer, player and coach, and Montgomery native. Having previously developed programs for Vassar College, Bill has spent many years arranging successful tournaments and clinics with nearby clubs including Yale, UConn, Haviland Hollow, Newport, and the Saratoga Polo Club.
One of the top US players, Mikey Matz, currently playing with The 101 Polo Team, has risen through the ranks of polo professionals and knows the extra effort it takes to be an American in this international sport, he offered “It’s programs like Bill’s that give our young American players the coaching and guidance that is hard to come by. You need to build relationships with the horses, then become familiar with strategy and game awareness, and add to that stick skills. A strong field presence is only achieved through constant time in the game and giving 100%.” Matz also added “It’s great to see these USPA programs that support American talent. It makes a difference to the future of polo. I look forward to seeing these players next summer in Southampton and wish them the best.”
Now that’s our kind of March Madness, Go Green!