Mesa junior high students win academic title - East Valley Tribune: News

Mesa junior high students win academic title

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Posted: Thursday, April 30, 2009 10:09 am | Updated: 1:24 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Students from Stapley Junior High School in Mesa won the National Academic League championship on Thursday.

The 20-student team took on competitors from Randolph Middle School in Charlotte, N.C. in a teleconference face-off of knowledge.

"It feels great. We were running around. It feels good to get redemption," said Jaden Bankhead, 14.

Last year, Stapley's team also was in the finals but lost by two points in the final minutes of the competition.

"This time, we played a little weaker team," Bankhead said. "We kept our composure the whole time and, with a little luck, we got ahead fast and stayed ahead the whole time."

Stapley competed in the national finals in 2006, as well.

"This is my third time to this dance, and this time, I am the prom queen," said parent volunteer Cheryl Stone.

Mary Evans, a Stapley teacher and the team's coach, was thrilled.

"I am so proud. I feel like we have accomplished the intergalactic championship. It's bigger than we can express. It's greater than words can say. The kids are so remarkable," she said in a phone call after the competition.

The National Academic League is a nationwide competition between junior high students that tests students on standard curriculum.

The competition includes four 10-minute "quarters," or rounds of questions, and a three- to five-minute presentation. The members of the team doing the presentation will be given the specific topic at the beginning of the competition and will have 30 minutes to prepare.

Questions include:

Name the literary term that imitates action or sounds (onomatopoeia);

What is the formula for kinetic energy? (half the quantity's mass times velocity squared)

What does the prefix "bi" mean? (two);

Solve for two numbers if the sum of the numbers is 96 and their difference is 32 (64 and 32).

Members of the team said earlier in the season they were taking things a bit too seriously and decided to lighten up their mood. It helped.

In the match that put them into the championship, they came from nine points behind to win by 11.

Eight members of the 20-member team competed last year. There were 64 kids who tried out to make this year's squad, Stone said

"Last year, we were very, very serious," Bankhead said before Thursday's final. "This year, we've had a lot more fun and are realizing it's in the fun of the game."

"Things roll off their backs easier," Stone said. "That has made all the difference for the mojo."

A positive "mojo" is the team's motto this year and adorns their T-shirts.

Heston Hamilton, 15, said competing for the National Academic League team has helped his studies.

"Things you have to study for, I've found I know it from NAL," Hamilton said.

It not only promotes competition and studies, it "looks good on a résumé," Hamilton said.

To prepare, the team met twice a week from October through their elimination from either city, state or national competitions.

"It's the season that never ends," Stone said.

Students say they also watch "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" and "Jeopardy."

"Some of us may not be excellent with sports, but we're good here," said Blake Stone, 14.

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