ABC's of victory for Howard High team

Sophomores win on `It's Academic'

Howard County

May 23, 2000|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

Howard High School's "It's Academic" team won the television quiz show's Super Bowl during the weekend, beating the finalists from Central Virginia and Washington-area high school competitions.

It's the first time in several years that a team from the Washington area didn't win the Super Bowl - the contest's final match. It was the first time in a longer span that a team from Howard County earned top honors.

"It feels great to bring it back to the Baltimore area," said Kyle Burkhalter,one of the winning three team members, who - unusually - are sophomores.

The Howard team beat Catonsville and Centennial high schools to move into the championship last month. All year, they had won the intellectual game, defeating schools such as Randallstown, Frederick, Hammond and Catoctin high schools.

None of the three expected to win the Super Bowl, especially after trailing Greenbelt's Eleanor Roosevelt High School most of the game. . Central Virginia's Robert E. Lee High School finished third.

"I think this one [competition] was harder than the others," said Kyle, 14. "We were not going into this one really with the expectation of winning because Eleanor Roosevelt is a really good team. Eleanor Roosevelt seems to always win everything."

What made the victory more exciting is how the team won, members said.

Much like an NBA playoff game, the team edged Eleanor Roosevelt as the game-ending buzzer was sounding and slam-dunked the right answer.

Team captain Patrick McKinneysaid it occurred so fast, he can barely remember what happened after the team buzzed in the correct answer."We were pretty happy. I don't know exactly specifically what we did, but we were all pretty happy," Patrick, 15, said.

Kyle remembers the hoopla after host Mac McGarry revealed that Howard had blurted out the correct answer.

"We knew that we were down by 15 with eight seconds left and then [McGarry] started reading the question, and all three of us knew that the only way we were going to win was to answer first and get it right," Kyle said.

The answer to the multiple-choice question - which involved the scientific principle of entropy- was "maximum." Kyle whispered the answer to Patrick, who carefully offered "maximum" as the team's final answer. The game-ending buzzer sounded just as Patrick yelled the word."It wasn't a complete guess," Kyle said. "But I wasn't really sure. I swear it took [McGarry] 20 seconds to tell us if we were right or wrong."

Once it was concluded that Howard High had won - defeating Roosevelt by 5 points - "I had a heart attack, Pat started banging on the desk, all of the Howard people in the audience started yelling. It was pretty cool," Kyle said.

Team members have become relative celebrities at Howard, which is used to lauding its football players, not its academicians."It's weird," said Rebecca Lambert, 15, the third member of the school's "It's Academic" team. "Like people I don't even know are coming up and congratulating me."

Team coach John Gilbert, who competed on Hammond High School's "It's Academic" team years ago, said he hopes the unexpected win doesn't go to the sophomores' heads.

Next year is a new year, he said, and things could be very different.`They had the ability to stick to the game plan and not to give up and to be persistent" when they were behind, Gilbert said. "None of them having had physics, they took an educated guess and it just happened to be the right one. It could have easily gone the other way."

The team - used to practicing three times a week-gets a rest. The team won't compete until Sep tember.

All three dismiss the break as too much of a distraction. They're ready to prove - to Gilbert, them selves and others - that they can do it again next year."I didn't know whether we were going to be able to do it or not," Re becca said. "I'm looking forward to starting again next year."

For those who might think a team of three sophomores winning the competition was beginners' luck, the Howard team members say: "Bzzzt. Wrong answer."

"Howard," Kyle said, "is a force to be reckoned with."

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