WVPA Sharing

West Virginia’s inaugural Academic Showdown Championship Bracket focuses on high school ‘Day of Champions’

George Washington High School earns state crown; Springs Mills High School earns runner-up status

By Matthew Young, WV Press News Sharing

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – “Dream big, ladies and gentleman!”

That’s what West Virginia Senate President Craig Blair told students, family members, and educators who gathered in Charleston on March 25 for the state’s inaugural Academic Showdown Championship Bracket — a general-trivia event described by the W.Va. Department of Education as a “head-to-head competition between West Virginia high school teams.”

In the finals, Kanawha County’s George Washington High School and Berkeley County’s Spring Mills High School collided for the distinction of being called “Grand Champion,” with George Washington High School earning the crown.

Participating were, from left, George Washington High School’s Joseph Chapman, Miles Krompecher, Patrick Ward, Reese Mason. (not pictured: Claire Kosky); Moderator Randall Reid-Smith; Spring Mills High School’s Calder Funk, Satchell Crockett, Andrew Davis, McPherson Stone (not pictured: Jenna Gross

For Sen. Blair, the championship competition was the culmination of a 15-year-long effort to establish this type of program in West Virginia, and he credits WV Chancellor for Higher Education Sarah Tucker and State Superintendent Clayton Burch for finally making it a reality. However, the Academic Showdown goes beyond highlighting the knowledge possessed by the state’s talented students. The competition itself presents a unique educational opportunity.

According to Sen. Blair, the Academic Showdown is modeled after a similar program in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. called “Its Academic.” 

Sen. Craig Blair

“This is something I’ve been dreaming about for a long time,” Blair said after the event. ‘Its Academic’ has been around since I was a child. It showcases the high schools, and they compete academically. The cheerleaders and the bands come in and cheer these teams on like it’s a football or basketball game. It’s amazing, and the beginning of that took place today in West Virginia.” 

“This was his (Sen. Blair’s) brainchild,” Tucker said, while speaking with members of the media at the championships. “He said ‘I want to celebrate students that are academically talented the same way that we celebrate athletes. I want people to be excited about being smart.’”

Both Tucker and Burch were immediately receptive to Blair’s request. According to Tucker, she said to herself, “We will move Heaven and Earth to make that happen, because that is a wonderful request.”

“The Day of Champions” was held at the Capitol Complex in Charleston, and enthusiastically moderated by WV Curator of Art and History Randall Reid-Smith. After an opening performance by the Greenbrier East marching band and team introductions, the competition got underway. 

At the conclusion of round one, George Washington, PikeView, Berkeley Springs and Spring Mills high schools remained. 

Despite the team from Greenbrier East suffering a loss in the first round, County Superintendent Jeff Bryant praised West Virginia’s school teachers for their “commitment to the importance of an exemplary educational experience.” 

Bryant further expressed the pride he felt for his students, saying “They represented all Greenbrier County citizens with distinction.” 

By the end of the second round, Kanawha County’s George Washington High School and Berkeley County’s Spring Mills High School were set to collide for the distinction of being called “Grand Champion.”

As the final match was poised to begin, and after a rousing performance from the George Washington High School cheerleaders, Reid-Smith told the crowd in attendance, as well as the recently eliminated teams, “This is it, this is the finals. This has been a great day, and we want to congratulate all teams.”

“We certainly want to thank all the coaches and all the teachers that helped plan this, and we want to thank the school superintendents,” Reid-Smith went on to say. “But I always say this – we want to thank the parents because they’re the ones who make it all possible. So before we start, you better tell your moms and dads that you love them.”

The two schools were evenly matched, with George Washington leading Spring Mills by the score of 12-points to seven heading into the Greenbrier East band’s intermission-rendition of “Sweet Caroline.” However, as the contest wore on, George Washington built an insurmountable lead, ultimately claiming victory when Team MVP Reese Mason correctly stated that the Tuileries Palace is located in France. 

“We are so very proud of our kids, and of Coach Pete Kosky,” Dr. Kelli Epling, Ed.D, curriculum assistant principal at George Washington High School said on Tuesday. “They demonstrated remarkable integrity. They all contributed. It was a great event to be at – it was exciting.” 

Epling further explained how proud she was that their team was co-ed, with Claire Kosky competing beside Mason, Patrick Ward, Miles Krompecher and Joseph Chapman. 

“For the first time, our students got to watch the competition at school,” Epling also said. “I was really appreciative of W.Va. Public Broadcasting for providing that opportunity.”

Each team that reached the quarterfinals of the Academic Showdown received $3,000. Teams that made it to the semifinals were awarded $4,000. As runners-up, Sen. Blair presented the team from Spring Mills High School with a check for $6,000. And as Grand Champions of the 2022 West Virginia Academic Showdown, George Washington High School was awarded $10,000. A ceremony, complete with trophy-presentation will take place at George Washington High School later this year. 

Prior to concluding in Charleston, the Academic Showdown began with a series of regional events held at colleges across the state, the first taking place at Marshall University on Jan. 15. The teams from Tug Valley and Ripley high schools took first- and second-place honors respectively. Their stellar performances earned both groups a place in last week’s championship bracket. 

In a statement released after the event, Tug Valley Team Captain Cassidy Griffey said, “Today was really exciting for me and for Tug Valley.” Carter Cochran, team captain of the Ripley squad added, “Education is everything – we’ll be ready for the championship.”

Shepherd University next played host, on Jan. 22, where Berkeley Springs and Spring Mills high schools punched their tickets to Charleston. After his team’s victory, Berkeley Springs Captain Matthew Leasure said “The validation is overwhelming.” Leasure’s counterpart from Spring Mills, Satchell Crockett, echoed the words spoken by Ripley’s Cochran, saying, “We look forward to competing in Charleston.”

Greenbrier East and PikeView high schools took the day at Concord University on Feb. 12. “I really want to thank our coaches for preparing us for the competition,” said Greenbrier East team-member Jason Ream. PikeView competitor Samuel Chambers followed by saying, “It’s great to represent my school and county.”

The final regional event, held on Feb. 19 at West Virginia University, saw George Washington and Sherman high schools claim the top two positions. 

“I’m very grateful that George Washington has been able to maintain a quiz bowl team for four years,” said Team Captain Reese Mason. “I’m happy with the performance of this team so far, and I look forward to the finals.”

When speaking about their school’s performance on the day, Sherman High School Captain Brett Adkins said, “We are so proud of our team.” 

According to Christy Day, communications director for the WVDE, an “online informational session” will take place during the summer-months for prospective coaches. Anyone interested in the Academic Showdown may contact Karen Linville via email at [email protected]. The full Championship Bracket can be viewed on West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Youtube page at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KU5uaGXQlx0&feature=youtu.be.

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