By CHARLES L. WARNER
Academics is a competitive team sport and it’s been a good year for some local teams.
The Jonesville Middle School Academic Challenge Team’s seventh-grade members were honored March 23 by the Union County Board of School Trustees for their performance at the OEC Academic Challenge Festival in Lancaster earlier. Team members Michael Bennett, Frederick Jeter, Alex Heatherly, Coley Heatherly and Josh Pruitt and team sponsor Camille Robinson were presented with certificates by the board honoring their achievement.
“Thank you for representing us so well,” board chairman Wanda All said.
The team finished the academic competition season with a 6-2 record including one victory at the festival. Ms. Robinson said the team had its first competition of the season in January. Teams must compete in six academic competitions before they could qualify for the festival. Of the six competitions before the festival, the team won five, losing only to the Sims Junior High School Academic Challenge Team.
Twenty-two teams participated in the festival and Ms. Robinson said each team was pitted against two others in a series of three five-minute matches. In each match 10-15 questions were asked on a variety of subjects including mathematics and history.
Jonesville was pitted against Rawlinson Road Middle School and Indian Land Middle School. They lost to Indian Land but won against Rawlinson Road.
Ms. Robinson said the celebration of academic competition is important because it can help encourage students to apply themselves to learning.
“I’m so proud for them excelling so much,” she said. “It should be publicized so that the children will have that sense of pride and want to continue to do their best academically.”
The eighth grade members of the team also competed during the season but didn’t win any of their competitions though they tied in two.
Jonesville also competed in Bill Drake’s Battle of the Brains Awareness Bowl but lost to D.R. Hill Middle School.
It’s been a good year for the Sims Junior High Academic Challenge Team as well, according to sponsor Katherine Summer-Gough.
The eighth-graders won their Triage Match against Jonesville and Lockhart at the beginning of the year; prevailed in competitions at Clover and Rock Hill; and won all of its matches at the OEC festival. The seventh-graders also participated in those competitions but only won against Jonesville and Clover.
The team also competed in Bill Drake’s Battle of the Brains Awareness Bowl which tests students’ academic knowledge and their general knowledge. Mrs. Summer-Gough said Sims won three out of four matches to make it to the final four, the first time it has done so since it began competing in the bowl in 1997.
The team won $250 in the competition and an invitation to the Battle of the Brains Banquet on Tuesday, May 5, at 6:30 p.m.
(The Battle of the Brains matches will be aired on 103.3 FM at 9:03 a.m. on May 30, July 11 and 25.)
Support for the team has been strong in school and in the community.
“With Union being a sports town primarily I think it’s great that we’re getting excited about academics,” Mrs. Summer-Gough said. “The whole school, teachers and students have rallied around the team.”
The Lockhart Middle School Academic Challenge Team also had a good year competing in six OEC competitions with the eighth-graders winning two, tying one, losing three; and the seventh-graders having one win, one tie and four losses. Sponsor George Jones said that in several instances the losses were by as little as one or two questions.
The team also made a good showing at the Battle of the Brains, losing only after bonus rounds to Boiling Springs which then played in the championship round. Jones said that while they may have lost more than they won, the students enjoyed themselves and the learning experience they had.
“It’s a bunch of good kids who seem to very interested in competing,” he said. “They were a good bunch to travel and work with and I’m very proud of what they accomplished this year.”
Dale Goff, assistant superintendent for instruction, said plans are underway for academic challenge teams at all elementary schools for grades 3-5. Mrs. Goff said the schools are holding in-house competitions to help prepare students. Next year there will be district wide competitions.
Mrs. Goff said the competitions are helping to promote a love of learning among the students.
“I witnessed the final four competition with the Sims group and I was amazed at how much they knew about so many varied subjects,” she said. “The leadership qualities that they were exhibiting were such that you could just tell these teenagers are passionate about current events and knowing everything.
“What started off as an extrinsic reward through the competitions has become intrinsic for those teenagers,” she said. “Now they want to know for the sake of knowing rather than just know for winning.”