Roland Park Middle loses in semifinal of academic competition

Kansas pupils win in national contest

April 26, 2001|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

The second Maryland team to make a Final Four round this year lost with good grace yesterday in the National Academic League tournament.

Roland Park Middle School was soundly defeated, 43-22, by a well-versed team from Wilbur Middle School in Wichita, Kan., during a tense semifinal match that tested team members' wits and knowledge in math, current affairs, geography, science, history and other topics.

In contrast to the team's previous game, there was never a doubt about the outcome against Wilbur.

City champion Roland Park won a match against a Pittsburgh team by one point Tuesday in a thrilling, 51-50 contest to advance further than any Baltimore team had before in the NLA national competition.

Twenty-seven Baltimore middle schools participated this year in the 10-year-old program, which is designed to improve school performance.

To make it to the Final Four, the Roland Park team performed like the Terps in College Park, displaying individual prowess and good teamwork based on hours of practice.

The two teams of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders squared off in an adrenalin-charged high-tech hook-up: A live video conference beamed the questions, answers, rules and faces between the Roland Park team and their Kansas peers.

Each team had about three dozen members, but not everyone played during the nearly two-hour contest. The format varied, but generally, league officials would ask a question of one team, which would respond or pass. If the first team missed the question, that allowed the other a chance to answer. In the last quarter, if both teams passed, any player could hit a buzzer and respond.

At the end of the second quarter, five of the best Roland Park team players had a flash of inspiration, while teammates watched from the bench. When asked which five northwestern states border Canada, the team of Jessalyn Timson, Brandon Roane, Alex Vizzi, Amy Peyrot and Charles Tannouri conferred vigorously.

"We knew 4 out of 5," said Brandon, the team captain. And since Jessalyn insisted North Dakota was the fifth, Brandon decided to trust her. She was right. (The other four are Washington, Idaho, Montana and Minnesota.)

With his team trailing at the onset of the fourth quarter, Marty Sharrow, the team's coach for nine years and the school's instructional administrator, admonished against risk-taking: "Be sure when you buzz."

The Kansas team correctly answered who wrote "War and Peace" (Leo Tolstoy) and who assassinated Abraham Lincoln (John Wilkes Booth). And Roland Park was able to answer the last question: What number does not exist in the Roman numeral system? (Zero.)

When it was over, Brandon addressed the Kansas team: "You guys were the toughest team we've ever faced."

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