Mount Hebron competes in National Economics Challenge

Howard County school is one of six vying for national championship

May 22, 2010|By John-John Williams IV, The Baltimore Sun

In two short years, Mount Hebron High School has gone from a relatively unknown school in the study of economics to a contender in the National Economics Challenge.

Of the 1,200 schools that originally entered the competition, the four-member team from Mount Hebron is one of six finalists vying for the championship this weekend in New York City. The quick ascension comes as no surprise to the team's coach, Vann Prime.

"This is a very gifted group of young men," said Prime, who has taught at Mount Hebron for five years. "There is a great deal of intellectual depth. As far as their knowledge base goes, it is very broad and deep. They really understand the field as well as university undergrads."

The team — seniors Kevin Bao, Colin Eddy, Saketh Pothireddy and Michael Tillman — beat out 24 teams to win the state competition in March. Each team member received a $200 U.S. savings bond and a $50 Visa gift card.

The four later qualified for the national championships by placing in the top six of all state champions on a written test. At the national championships, the team from Mount Hebron will face off against five other schools in a written-question-format tournament where the scores of the top three team members are used to determine a final score. The top two teams then advance to a final round.

The title is decided in what is described as a "quick-paced oral quiz-bowl round." Each first-place team member will receive $1,500. In all, $16,000 will be awarded to students participating in the finals. The champion will be named Monday.

Eddy, a 17-year-old Ellicott City resident who is heading to the University of Maryland, College Park in the fall, has spent months preparing for the competitions by studying economic theories and past competition questions.

"It feels good," Eddy said of the team's recent success. "We definitely did something that our school has never done. It was pretty impressive to me. We were happy."

Pothireddy, a 17-year-old Ellicott City resident who plans to major in electrical and computer engineering along with business management and finance at Carnegie Melon University in the fall, competed for the first time this year.

"It is really a tough competition," Pothireddy said. "Placing first was really exciting. Going into the state competition I was confident, but I was still nervous. I wasn't sure what to expect from the competition."

Prime, who was responsible for bringing Advanced Placement economics to the school four years ago, formed a competitive economics team at the school last year.

"I really wanted them to compete," he said about his economics students. "I wanted to see more academic competition. I knew I had some very strong students."

At last year's state competition, Prime's team placed third.

"We didn't know what to expect the first year," he said.

This year, Prime believed his team could compete with the best in the state and nation.

"We thought we had a very competitive team," he said.

After the team members found out that they qualified for the finals, he noticed a new level of confidence.

"They are not going to be happy unless they finish first," he said.

Pothireddy was cautiously optimistic about the team's chances of winning the competition.

"It's going to be really tough," he said. "All of the schools have been in the national competition before. We are the underdogs. We hope the odds are in our favor."

john-john.williams@baltsun.com

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