Oakland Mills High Wins `It's Academic' Area Title

April 29, 1997|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

Oakland Mills High School's "It's Academic" team won the Baltimore area championship last weekend, narrowly defeating teams from Towson and Hammond high schools.

The three-student team -- senior Matthew Gealy and juniors Rachel Whitmore and Owen Read -- pulled out the championship match by answering the final question correctly with no time remaining.

"They won an exciting match that went back and forth -- the tension was like we were at the state football championships," said Kevin Shea, a drama and English teacher at Oakland Mills and one of the team's coaches. "Some of the questions that they answered just amazed me."

The trio of Oakland Mills 17-year-olds moves on to the mid-Atlantic regional Super Bowl next month, where they will meet the winners of the District of Columbia and and central Virginia tournaments.

"I'm sure that will be even more difficult," Whitmore said. "But as long as we get in a groove and start answering questions, I think we'll do pretty well."

"It's Academic" is an annual competition in its 26th year featuring three-student teams from three high schools answering questions. Matches are broadcast on WJZ-Channel 13.

The Oakland Mills victory comes a year after the team lost in the Baltimore area's championship match.

"Last year, we lost on a tie-breaker, and this year we won on the last question -- it was a nice turn-around," said Gealy, who also was a member of last year's team. Whitmore and Read were alternates last year.

In winning the championship, the east Columbia high school's squad had to win four television matches.

The semifinals included a somewhat controversial victory over Howard High School. Howard was leading at the end of the game, until the off-camera judges caught an incorrect answer given by Howard and made Oakland Mills the winner.

"We know them pretty well and practiced against them a couple times, so it was kind of hard to see the match turn out like that," Gealy said.

The Oakland Mills team practices for an hour two afternoons a week, participating in "It's Academic" competitions at local colleges in addition to the annual television competition.

For winning, Oakland Mills brought back a plaque as well as $2,000 for the school's "It's Academic" scholarship fund.

The semifinal and final matches are expected to be broadcast in late June.

Pub Date: 4/29/97

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