Indian Land students win first S.C. academic championships

Special to the Fort Mill TimesMarch 31, 2014 

The Indian Land High School Academic Challenge team is from left, front row: Ryan Zimmer, Devon Maloney, Katrina Bynum, Grace Trumpower, Alyssa Clark, Kyle Gonsalves, co-captain Sam Hoezler and captain Liana Stoddard; back row: coach Matthew Hodge, Rodney Hubbard, Trudy Wrona, Elice Walrath, Daniel Beamer, Laura Mackay, coach Jamie Johnston and Alex Koch. Not pictured is Zach Patterson.


— There are students you can label as know-it-alls and it wouldn’t be an insult.

Teams from Indian Land Middle and Indian Land High schools recently won the S.C. State Championship in Academics held at Francis Marion University in Florence.

Indian Land High School defeated Johnsonville High from Florence School District Five 25-24 to win the Division II title. Indian Land Middle School defeated Williams Middle out of Florence 33-24.

The S.C. State Championship in Academics is a new event. Michael Fanning, executive director of the Olde English Consortium, a nonprofit, educational collaborative of seven districts in the North Central region of South Carolina, said a state event gives students an opportunity to compete outside their regions.

“We can finally say (South Carolina) is celebrating academic achievement in the same way we celebrate athletic achievement,” Fanning said. “We’re proud we have two state championship winners in the first ever state championship in academics.”

The Olde English Consortium and the Pee Dee Education Center representing 22 districts in the Pee Dee area of the state, co-hosted the state championship. Approximately 105 students from the middle and high school regional championship teams represented both large schools (Division I) and smaller schools (Division II).

Indian Land High School has been participating in the Academic Challenge for four years, said Matthew Hodge, math teacher and challenge team coach. Starting with four students in 2010, the team attended one challenge. This year, the 15-member team competed in nine season matches and the regional and state tournaments and ended with a 4-3 record.

Regular seasons consist of three 12-minute rounds in which members race to buzz in and have 10 seconds to answer all questions, with more time given for math problems, Hodge said.

The state competition pitted four players at a time in four rounds, with 20 questions each for the first two rounds and 25 questions for the last two, Hodge said. Indian Land High School was tied with Johnsonville High after the first three rounds and came out on top with one more correct answer than its opponent after the list of questions was exhausted.

“It was a very exciting match,” Hodge said. “I think they surprised themselves.”

Hodge said neither team was able to answer the last few questions. Along the way, one of the more difficult one Indian Land answered correctly was, “What skill did the fortune tellers of Julius Caesar’s time use?”

The answer was augury.

The Indian Land High team members have been practicing every Monday since December, said team president Liana Stoddard, a senior. Stoddard said though many team members are new, they dedicated themselves to a victory in the first state championship.

“The team really stepped up,” she said. “It’s the icing on the cake.”

Team Vice President Samantha Hoelzer, also a senior, said the championship was a group effort.

“We all worked great together,” she said. “They all showed a lot of dedication and came to every meeting.”

Laura Mackay, a senior and team secretary, said for the team, every right answer is a “mini victory.”

“I’m really glad I participated this year,” she said.

Indian Land High coach Jamie Johnston said the team is “a great group of kids to work with. They have worked hard.”

The Indian Land Middle School team, coached by English teacher Kay Sehorn and math teacher Brad Johnson, remains undefeated, having won in the regular season for two years, Sehorn said.

Sehorn said eighth grade team member TJ Funderburk told her the challenge helped prepare him for college and quick thinking.

“Indian Land Middle has been pushing the envelope in the last two years in terms of academic competition in our region,” Fanning said. “They are the team to beat.”

The Olde English Consortium will host the state championship next year and hopes to include the majority of school districts across South Carolina, Fanning said.

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