Challenge Conquered

Academic Challenge team takes home Federal League title


Mrs. Deborah Wiley/used with permission

[clockwise from top left] Seniors Harrison LaHaie, Jaideep Seth, Brian Thomas, Sarah Grace O’Donnell, sophomore Robby Smart, seniors Pasindu Wanigarathne and Sarah Kocher make up the varsity Academic Challenge team. The team won the Federal League Jan. 29.

Ava Klink, Co-Chief OP-ED Editor

Hoover’s Academic Challenge team won their tournament at New Philadelphia High School Jan. 29, making them Federal League champions. Their victory qualified them for the upcoming regional tournament in April.
The varsity team is made up of seniors Sarah Kocher, Harrison LaHaie, Sarah Grace O’Donnell, Jaideep Seth, Brian Thomas and Pasindu Wanigarathne a well as sophomore Robby Smart. Wanigarathne has been a member of academic challenge since sixth grade and has enjoyed preparing for the season with his teammates.
“We have been practicing all year by doing scrimmage matches and hearing the questions,” he said. “I was super happy to have won. We hadn’t won since I entered high school, so it felt good to finally win.”
League chairman and Hoover advisor Ms. Deborah Wiley is heavily involved in the success of the team. Her role includes planning practices, finding practice material, arranging readers and buses, communicating with other teams and organizing the league schedule. She is particularly proud of the way that this team interacts with one another and believes it was a key component to their success.
“They know each other so well that they can almost read each other’s thoughts,” she said. “And they don’t get upset with each other if somebody gives the wrong answer. I pride myself in how my teams represent Hoover High School as far as their demeanor, character, sportsmanship and respect.”
Academic challenge members are able to join the team by trying out at the beginning of the school year, meaning that members who make the team can come from a variety of interests and backgrounds.
“While they are all smart, they are not necessarily all similar to each other,” Wiley said. “Over the years, I have had eclectic groups of students who have learned to work with whoever else was on the team.”
Not only does academic challenge require a wide range of knowledge but also speed and recall abilities. Because of this, rounds could quickly change into another team’s favor.
“Learning how to take both victory and defeat is one of the most important lessons,” Wiley said.
Luckily, the team only had to take victory in New Philadelphia after beating Perry in the semifinals and GlenOak in the intense finals.
“Winning the semi-finals was like LeBron James hitting a buzzer beater,” Wiley said.
Senior Sarah Kocher has been a member of academic challenge since seventh grade and focuses on the literature and arts categories. She is thrilled that her final season has been prolonged as they advance into the next levels.
“The pressure was so intense during our final match, but it was so worth it,” she said. “The rush of adrenaline you get when you buzz in and answer correctly is the best.”
While Kocher specializes in topics such as classic literature, operas and Shakespearean plays, each member of the team brings their own skill set to the match.
“We all work together to figure out an answer if we don’t know,” she said. “We bounce ideas off of each other until we have that aha! moment.”
Kocher sees the passion that the underclassmen have for the game as well and hopes that they enjoy their next few seasons just as much. She also encourages interested students to try out for academic challenge next year.
“If you like trivia or simply learning new things, give it a shot,” she said. “This team is fun to be a part of, and I highly recommend trying out if you’re even slightly interested.” ♦