By SAMANTHA SMITH, Staff Writer | Published November 23, 2021
HIRAM—For their last competition of 2021, Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School won six medals at the Southeast Open Taekwondo Championship on Nov. 6.
Taekwondo is a Korean form of martial arts, consisting of kicking and punching techniques. In competition, points are awarded based on correctly executed techniques. Belt colors symbolize different knowledge levels.
All three Cristo Rey Atlanta student competitors won two medals each. They competed in forms and Olympic sparring at the championship at Hiram High School.
Edgar Ponce, captain of the team, won two gold medals. A yellow-belt competitor, Ponce is an eleventh grade student. Alexander Hernandez-Perrusquia, a sophomore, earned one silver medal and one bronze. He was the only black-belt competitor for Cristo Rey Atlanta. Ernest Charles Jr., a senior and first-time competitor, won a gold medal and a silver medal. Charles is a white belt with a yellow stripe.
Cristo Rey Atlanta is the only Catholic school in the Archdiocese of Atlanta that offers taekwondo as a competitive sport. The team is a member of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU). Since joining the AAU in 2017, the Cristo Rey Atlanta team has won medals in the national competitions for three consecutive years.
Pierre Monette Jr. has coached taekwondo since he came to the high school seven years ago. Monette started taekwondo at 11 years old and has been involved in the martial art for 46 years. His taekwondo instructor, Abraham Madrey Jr., taught Monette lessons about the art and life he hopes to instill in his Cristo Rey Atlanta students.
“Seeing students learn techniques that they at first thought they couldn’t do, that’s empowering,” said Monette.
Hopefully that will transfer from taekwondo to their school work and other things, he said.
Cristo Rey Atlanta students can join the taekwondo academy throughout the school year to practice and learn the martial art. When students show commitment, focus, timeliness and ability during practice over time, they are able to join the competitive team.
“I want to teach our kids about the importance of commitment,” said Monette. “I want these kids to see excellence, not only in taekwondo—excellence in their life in general.”
With the holidays approaching, Monette is planning one more week of practice before the end of the semester. In January, new members of the competitive team will be announced. The team will begin preparing for the AAU qualifying competition in February.
Monette said that it’s been a great experience to teach a new generation of students the things his taekwondo instructor taught him years ago.