If you’ve got the brains and are quick on your toes, Cave Spring and Hidden Valley High School have the perfect sport for you – the Academic Challenge Team.
Cave Spring hosted a district match yesterday, Jan. 22. The schools that participated included SWoCo’s very own Cave Spring and Hidden Valley, as well as So Salem’s Salem High School. Pulaski, Blacksburg, and Christiansburg also competed.
But what exactly is the Academic Challenge Team? Cave Spring Coach, Bob Powers, who also teaches math, history, and computer science at Cave Spring, said that it is a Virginia High School League (VHSL) program described as team academic Jeopardy.
“It’s a team of kids that test and recall knowledge on subject areas that are covered in school, kind of like Jeopardy for kids,” Powers said.
Cave Spring’s team consists of about 12 to 15 students who try out for the team to make it as the top four students.
“We accept anyone who wants to play. There is always a spot on the team,” Powers said.
During a match there are two teams sitting at different tables, each student with a buzzer in hand. A moderator asks a question and the first team to ring their buzzer gets to answer first. If they are correct they receive 10 point. If wrong, they get a five point penalty. The first and second round are the same, but the second round is a team round where students are allowed to talk amongst themselves and discuss the answer. A match lasts about 30 to 40 minutes.
Powers said that Cave Spring’s season starts as early as August and runs until June.
“It’s basically a year-round sport,” he said. “For the most part the kids are pretty bright to begin with. It’s kind of easy when working with the right ingredients.”
Powers said his team practices by setting up mock scrimmages and practices. The students help by making up their own questions and host an invitational in the area. Powers said the more tournaments they can attend, the better they get.
“The only way to get better is to compete as much as they can,” he said.
Cave Spring hosts two invitationals a year, one in the fall and one for the general public in the spring. Cave Spring began their Academic Challenge Team and began competing in the program only four years ago.
“Every year we’ve always qualified for nationals,” Power said. “Our best year we were 21st in the nation and currently we are 34th in the nation. At a series of invitationals we’ve come in first in four or five. We are also participating in the TV show in Richmond called ‘Battle of the Brains.’ ”
“Sometimes we are intimidated because we’ve run into these people who are amazing. But I am sure we’ve come across as intimidating to other teams as well.”
Terri Preston coaches the Hidden Valley High School Academic Challenge Team. This is only the team’s second year in existence, she said.
“It’s pretty much general knowledge questions, current events, foreign language, culture questions, social studies, science, math, and English,” Preston said.
Preston and her team of students meet several times a week to practice. There are six students on her team.
“I have all seniors on my team. We’ve won one match. And we’ve had a total of five,” she said.
Hidden Valley’s matches began in December and will end at the end of January.
“Our first year wasn’t very good. We didn’t win any matches but we’ve learned a lot. We learned what we could do more or less and how to prepare, and some of the strategies. I think the students are enjoying it.”
Beacuse the Hidden Valley Team is still rather new, Coach Preston hopes to get more students involved next year.
“What I think I’m going to do is start advertising the scholastic team in early May to get a variety of students other than seniors. That is what I’m truly hoping for. One of my biggest troubles is the students that are on swimming or the track team that would really like to do it and their schedules conflict.”
And the results of the District Tournament at Cave Spring, submitted by Kenneth Flint are as follows:
Cave Spring defeated Salem 325-130 in the final match to conclude an unbeaten run through the double elimination tournament. The Knights had been seeded second on the basis of regular season play, while the third seeded Spartans had upset regular season champion Blacksburg to make the final round. All three of these teams will advance to next week’s regional tournament at Southwest VA CC in Cedar Bluff.
Christiansburg placed fourth, with Pulaski County and Hidden Valley finishing tied in fifth place.
To view more photos from the District Tournament visit our gallery here.