3 schools in weekend competitions

Centennial finishes 2nd in academic Super Bowl

Lime Kiln 8th in rocketry challenge

May 23, 2007|By John-John Williams IV | John-John Williams IV,sun reporter

Three Howard County schools faced formidable academic competition this weekend and held their own.

Centennial High School made it to the It's Academic Super Bowl in Washington and finished second.

Long Reach High School and Lime Kiln Middle School sent students to The Plains, Va., for the National Team America Rocketry Challenge. The five-member team from Lime Kiln finished eighth; Long Reach did not place in the top 25.

"They are very excited and surprised," said Tracy Spillman, one of Lime Kiln's advisers. "We had high hopes, but they didn't know what to expect. Everyone had a very good attitude."

The school won a trophy and a $4,000 scholarship. Lime Kiln's all-eighth-grade team includes Ben Gulliford, Michael Peters, Corey Schwab, Tommy Zhang and Matt Zuchero.

The rocketry challenge -- deemed the largest in the world -- attracted 7,000 students on 690 teams this year. The contest is open to students in seventh through 12th grades.

Teams are required to design, build and test a model rocket that can transport a raw egg. The rockets are expected to reach 850 feet, remain airborne for 45 seconds, and return the egg to the ground unbroken.

Lime Kiln was one of two middle school teams to place in the top 25. One hundred teams were invited to the finals in Virginia.

Bob Hawthorne, adviser of Long Reach's team, said his students -- Stephanie Spring, Lindsey Zettel, Matt McKenna, Tommy Trinh and Jake Esposito -- were honored to compete in the championship.

A patch of bad weather hurt the team, Hawthorne said.

"The launch windows were set every hour," Hawthorne said. "The wind picked up enormously during our launch."

The experience still was positive for the Long Reach team, which put in more than 100 hours preparing for the competition.

"It's a wonderful test of perseverance and re-engineering," Hawthorne said. "It was wonderful, wonderful."

Centennial was looking to repeat its Super Bowl success of 2005. But the team from Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda finished first with 555 points, followed by Centennial High, 415 points, and Robert E. Lee High from Staunton, Va., 300 points.

"It was a very exciting game," said Susan Lechner, a spokeswoman for the quiz show. "The three teams were very good. They [Centennial] are just a delightful team."

Centennial team members are seniors Faith Zhang (captain), Ari Seifter, Shyam Srinivasan and alternate Kriti Gandhi. Their second-place finish earned the school an additional $5,750 in scholarship money.

Centennial won the Baltimore regional championship two weeks ago -- worth $5,000 -- to advance to the Super Bowl.

Walter Johnson received a trophy and a $10,000 scholarship.

It's Academic, television's longest running quiz show, pits three-member high school teams against one another during the school year until teams are whittled down to three.

The Baltimore regional championship will air at 10 a.m. June 23 on WJZ-TV The Super Bowl will air at 10 a.m. June 30 on WJZ.

john-john.williams@baltsun.com

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