COLUMBIANA - The winter weather didn't stop students from displaying their smarts in the 36th annual Columbiana County Academic Challenge at Columbiana High School Saturday.
The event, coordinated by the county Educational Service Center, featured nine schools competing in a round robin tournament testing the students' knowledge on a variety of subjects including social studies, language arts, math and science. Nine rounds were held, with each team receiving a bye.
When the dust settled, East Palestine won the tournament, winning all eight rounds in which it competed. Senior Kade Marsili noted the team's work and preparation leading up to the tournament.
The winter weather didn’t stop students from displaying their smarts in the 36th annual Columbiana County Academic Challenge at Columbiana High School Saturday. Shown here are, from left, Evan Jones, Kyle Zimmerman, Kade Marsili and Curtis Myers of first place East Palestine doing their best impression of The Thinker as they mug with the Academic Challenge championship trophy. (Salem News photos by Patti Schaeffer)
"For the past few weeks, we started having weekly meets where we compete every Wednesday," Marsili said. "I think that really helped us out a lot. We got more points in this tournament than we usually do."
Marsili, along with juniors Curtis Myers and Evan Jones and freshman Kyle Zimmerman, now looks forward to the Regional Academic Competition as the team will compete against 30 other schools at Cloverleaf High School in Lodi April 12.
"I'm very excited," Myers said. "I feel like I'm jumping out of my skin right now."
East Palestine's academic challenge adviser, Dr. Lisa Bircher, provided a relaxed environment for the team, encouraging the players to learn what may interest them rather than everything.
"I try to encourage them to build their areas of interest," Bircher said. "At school, you have to study everything, even if you're not interested in it. Here, the idea is to excel and get better at things that you're already good at."
The team looked forward to the tournament, and while the players are involved in other activities like science club, drama, choir and soccer, Myers was glad that none of the other activities forced him or anyone else to leave the competition early.
"I remember last year I had to miss half of the meet because I had to go to a competition for choir," Myers said. "I'm really glad they had the competition on a day when nothing was going on."
One cause for concern, however, was the snow, which explained the absence of teammate Alexis Winkle.
"A lot of us almost didn't come because of the snow," Marsili said. "Alexis was going to join us, but she couldn't because of the weather."
One team that didn't come due to the snow was East Liverpool, which made the decision on Friday not to compete for concerns of unsafe travel as noted by event coordinator Yvonne Lipinsky.
"It is very upsetting because these kids have worked so hard and studied so much for this competition," Lipinsky said. "It's disappointing to put so much effort and energy into this to have to miss the competition, but safety is a very important issue."
Meanwhile, Columbiana, which won last year's tournament, placed second this year, winning six rounds. Columbiana's adviser, Jody Edwards, remained happy for her team despite falling short.
"I was just really proud of my team," Edwards said. "Not only did they come out and really try their best with some packets with really hard questions, they helped getting everything set up for the tournament."
Edwards also appreciated the preparation for the event not only from the students, but also from parents as well.
"They got up early and worked above and beyond what they needed to do to make the event enjoyable for themselves and everyone that came," Edwards said. "It was a lot of work, but I was very blessed to have good parents and a good husband to take a day off work to oversee concessions, so we're a good team."
Crestview and United tied for third place with five wins. Also participating in the tournament was Beaver Local, Leetonia, Lisbon, Salem and Southern Local.