Winning is academic for Roland Park students Youngsters are cramming for knowledge contest

March 01, 1996|By Marilyn McCraven | Marilyn McCraven,SUN STAFF

Diamonte Brown yesterday declared her team a sure bet to win next week's local competition that is part of a national academics contest for middle schools.

However, the eighth-grader and 29 of her schoolmates at Roland Park Elementary/Middle School on Roland Avenue are not leaving their collective fate to chance. It's cram time until Wednesday.

Marty Sharrow, a Roland Park team coach and administrator, won't predict victory for Wednesday's local finals, but he says the team has the makings of a winner.

"This is the best team, the most devoted team, we've had," Mr. Sharrow said. "Practice starts at 8 a.m. When I get here at 7 a.m., they're coming through the door with me."

The reasons for their optimism include Roland Park's 7-0 record this season against other city public schools and its record-breaking 86 points scored by a city team in one match.

The competition is held annually by the National Academic League. Baltimore City's participation is funded by the Abell Foundation.

The League was started in 1991 with eight junior high schools in Salt Lake City and has spread to 23 cities across the country.

The competitions are similar to the televised program "It's Academic," with students vying to answer questions in categories including art, geography, history and literature.

Before school yesterday, much of Roland Park's team was gathered in the school's library to review slides of works by such artists as Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali.

After correctly identifying a series of paintings and their artists, the contestants began grappling with geography questions offered by Mr. Sharrow. The answers did not come so readily.

"What's the easternmost point of the United States?" he asked. "Which of the Great Lakes is in the United States and not Canada?"

The students were stumped by those questions, but promised to study.

Soon it was time for them to go to their classes. Each left with a map of North America stuffed in notebooks and backpacks.

Roland Park's team began studying for the competition last fall, along with teams from 15 other Baltimore City public schools. Matches were held from October to February.

Wednesday's match will determine which local team will vie with the top Philadelphia team this month in the preliminary round. The winnowing process is similar to the NCAA basketball elimination tournament, with a "final four" contest and a championship game next month.

"We're not used to losing," said Diamonte. "We win in basketball, in soccer. The only thing we lose in is lacrosse. And we're going to turn that around."

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