Bluefield comes up just short of Morgantown in Academic Showdown final

By Matthew Young, RealWV

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – “In 1995, Timothy McVeigh conducted a terrorist bombing of what city’s Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building?”

That was the first question asked by moderator Randall Reid-Smith to start the 27th and final match of the 2024 West Virginia Academic Showdown. And although Bluefield High School’s Nathan Yost correctly answered “Oklahoma City” to put his team up by a score of one-to-nothing, it would be the last lead the Beavers would hold against Morgantown on Tuesday.  

Despite Bluefield losing a matchup earlier in the day, they fought their way to the finals of the double-elimination tournament as the winners of the Consolation Bracket. Morgantown’s Team One, who took the Winner’s Bracket on the strength of four-straight victories, lost a nail-biter to Bluefield in overtime to set up the deciding 27th matchup. 

When Morgantown’s Sawyer Rudy correctly stated that Emma Stone won the oscar for her portrayal of Bella Baxter in the film “Poor Things,” he put his team up two-to-one. They never looked back from there, and Morgantown’s Team 2 carried their lead all the way to victory, by the final score of 27 to 11. 

The win marked the second consecutive state title for the Mohigans. The team consisting of Sawyer Rudy, Preston Hedrick, Julia Oliverio, Agatha Dahle, Logan Ross, and Coach Alex Godfrey now join their sister team from Morgantown, and the team from George Washington High School in Charleston as the third winners of the Academic Showdown State Championship. 

Bluefield High School – Nathan Yost, Quinn Brown, Liam Dietz, Titus Holcomb, Jack Schroeder, with Coach Taylor Bulson – took second place, while Wheeling Park High School – Patricia Jeffers, Grant Kenemond, Kathryn Prather, Kaleb Trimmer, Ally Johnson, and Coach Elizabeth Jeffers – finished second. Also participating in Tuesday’s finale were teams from Huntington, Winfield, Spring Mills, George Washington, Buffalo, Grafton, Bridgeport, and Westside High Schools. Also in attendance to cheer on their team were the Winfield and Westside High School cheerleaders, and entertaining the audience was the Wheeling Park High School band.

In a repeat of their regional qualifier last month at Concord University, 2023’s fourth-place finisher, the Mavericks of James Monroe High School, came up just short in a highly competitive first round match against Bluefield. The Mavericks team – consisting of Elizabeth Adkins, Abigail Mathis, Cole Thomas, Bryceson Whitt, and Coaches Stormy Thorne and Ashley Mann – suffered their second loss against the Grafton High School Bearcats in the consolation round. 

After Morgatown and Bluefield, rounding out the top three was third-place finisher Wheeling Park High School: Patricia Jeffers, Grant Kenamond, Kathryn Prather, Kalen Trimmier, Ally Johnson, with Coach Elizabeth Jeffers. 

Described by the W.Va. Department of Education as an “academic head-to-head competition that brings West Virginia high school students from across the state together for regional matchups,” the Academic Showdown is now in its third year of active competition. The competition is modeled after a similar program from the Baltimore/Washington D.C. area called “It’s Academic,” of which Senate President and W.Va.’s Lieutenant Governor Craig Blair was an avid fan growing up. 

In a written message to students, Blair said, “You truly are West Virginia’s best and brightest, and I am thrilled to have a competition where you can showcase your talents.”

“Regardless of who comes out on top, you have all done an amazing job,” Blair added.

The 2023 season boasted 36 teams. On the day of the 2023 finale, Blair promised that, “Next year is going to be twice as big.” The current season of the showdown began with 90 teams from 50 high schools in 31 counties, competing in five separate regional events at universities across West Virginia. The top  16 teams then advanced to the double-elimination championship round in Charleston. 

“We have grown immensely in three years,” W.Va. Superintendent of Schools Michelle Blatt told the players prior to the start of competition. “We have grown from 21 teams, to 90 teams that are competing this year. This was Sen. Blair’s vision, and he’s so excited about the growth that we’ve seen. He’s already challenged us to expand more for next year.”

In addition to Morgantown Team One, Bluefield, Wheeling Park, Grafton, and James Mornore, nine other teams competed in the 2024 Academic Showdown finale. Those teams include:

  • Morgantown Team Two: Steven Tian, Pratham Bhanushali, Venkat Das, Julianna Ferrell, August Owen, with Coach Hunter Stape.
  • Spring Mills High School Team One: Mason Garrett, Jude Stone, Jacob Hylton, Nathaniel Michael, Gabe Alexander, with Coach Matthew Grogg.
  • Spring Mills High School Team Two: Hunter Zittle, Caitlyn Alexander, Hunter Tabler, Tyler High, Jonathan Faulcon, with Coach Matthew Grogg.
  • George Washington High School: Joseph Chapman, Jackson Price, Claire Kosky, Sohan Kukkillaya, with Coach Pete Kosky. 
  • Buffalo High School: Evan Hartley, Cole Whittington, Devon Naugle, Ariana Shrewsbury, with Coach Steven Pickrell.
  • Grafton High School: Justin Gainer, Nathan Castle, Caroline Wellman, Alexander Himes, Landen Hulley, with Coaches Teresa Dalton and Lori Shumaker.
  • Bridgeport High School: Tyler Hackney, William Northey, Garrett Smith, Nhya Knepper, with Coach Brian Elliott. 
  • Westside High School: Eli Toler, Tanner Adkins, Kinsey Mounts, Madilyn Walker, with Coach Angel McCoy-Green.
  • Huntington High School: Simeon Schray, Dash Carey-Squire, Bennett Weimer, Max Bohren, Kethan Neginhal, with Coaches Kelly Kauffer and Jennifer Day.
  • Winfield High School: Luke Davis, Wyatt Moore, Mason Dailey, Andrew Gilchrist, Ben Cobb, with Coach Robbie Girdon.

For more information about the Academic Showdown, contact Coordinator Karn Linville at 304-558-5325, or via email at karen.linville@k12.wv.us. Information can also be found by visiting the West Virginia Department of Education’s website, at wvde.us

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