Beavers, Mavericks finish strong at Concord, punch their tickets to the Academic Showdown finals in Charleston

By Jeffrey Kanode, RealWV

Bluefield High placed first and James Monroe’s Team Two finished second at the Concord University regional competition of the West Virginia Department of Education’s 2024 Academic Showdown.  The Beavers and the Mavericks advance to the final round of competition coming up in April.

Greenbrier East, Greenbrier West, Mingo Central, PikeView, Princeton, and Summers County joined Bluefield and James Monroe as the high schools making up the regional showdown at Concord.

Categories covered virtually every academic field. For example, first-round questions ranged from American politics to famous four-letter novel titles to Michael Jordan to astronomy. The teams advanced through brackets in an academic version of the NCAA’s March Madness.  In each head-to head matchup, teams competed in two rounds—in the first, the team could confer on the answer, and in the second, individual players buzzed in.  

In that second lightning round of play, often the moderator hadn’t even completely read the question before a student buzzed in to answer…. in many instances, correctly. 

According to Joey Wisemen, Director of Student Enrichment for the WVDE, ninety teams across the state registered for the Showdown.

“Students in grades 9-12 compete in head-to-head match ups by answering questions about math, history, fine arts, pop culture and more,” Wisemen said, adding that the competition gives West Virginia students the opportunity to shine with “their academic prowess and critical thinking skills.” 

Karen Linville, Coordinator of Student Enrichment for WVDE, said that she has noticed the academic teams are being celebrated and recognized in their schools—something that doesn’t always happen when it comes to non-athletic competition. She said that the positive reaction of the schools to their teams’ Academic Bowl victories “contributes to their experience and the opportunity for communities to support academic success.”

The experience of Bluefield High senior Nathan Yost mirrors what Linville observes.  

“I appreciate the opportunity for me and my team mates to be recognized for our academic achievements when maybe in the past we didn’t have that chance,” Yost noted.

James Monroe’s Elizabeth Adkins, also a senior, agrees that this program has benefited her and her peers in both their academic and in their personal growth. 

“Academically, this competition has taught me so much about all kinds of different topics, ranging from art to math and even current and pop culture,” Adkins reflected. “This competition has been beneficial for my personal life as well. I have developed deeper connections with friends, and I’ve even made some new ones.”

James Monroe’s Academic Showdown coach Stormy Thorne, who teaches social studies, values the way this competition empowers students to learn and work together, and to help each other learn more.

“We had a great day competing,” Thorne said. “I’m proud of the kids and what they accomplished. All I do is show up and support them and they do the rest.”

Yost said that he and the rest of the Bluefield team always come to the Showdown with gratitude for the opportunity, and this year’s regionals at Concord gives them an even greater since of gratitude and optimism.

“The Academic Showdown is something we look forward to. It’s an opportunity for us to compete with schools we don’t normally compete with. We do participate in other quiz bowls, but that’s normally just county-wide. The Showdown gives us a chance to compete on a state level.  Saturday’s win was a shock. We exceeded expectations and we are excited to go on from here,” he remarked.

Winning Bluefield and runner-up James Monroe will have another chance to shine, when schools from all over West Virginia convene for the Academic Showdown finals on April 23, at the West Virginia Culture Center in Charleston.

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