Falcons earn runner-up at state academic competition

Academic team students placed second at State Commissioner’s Academic Challenge over spring break.

Sophia Berry, Editor

Saint Stephen’s Academic Team members placed runner up at the State competition over spring Break. Three competitors from Saint Stephen’s attended the Commissioner’s Academic Challenge (CAC), a team-style trivia competition, Junior Jackson Nealis, and Seniors Luke Phommachanh and Sophia Berry.
Team Manatee also consisted of two students from Southeast, Madison Barendse and Alexander Aldama, and one student from Braden River, Jonathan Taylor.
Throughout the three day competition the students competed against 12 other schools in their division from all over the state. This competition was a culmination of all the students’ hard work throughout the first half of the year during the county CAC competitions.
The students were tested on questions based around the subjects of Humanities, English, Science, Math, History, and Music.
A new facet of the competition this year was their decision to live stream the final round on the competition using Vimeo, a video streaming platform. This enabled parents, family, and friends to watch the competition from their own homes, which allowed a greater understanding of the State Competition for spectators.
Team Manatee and the Falcons placed first in their initial round and immediately proceeded to the semi-final round on Saturday. On Saturday, the competitors placed first in their room and qualified for finals. In finals they placed 2nd overall in the state, losing to the first place team by 30 points.
According to Nealis, one of the reasons for Manatee County’s success at states was the specialization of the team members. Each player had a unique skill set that had limited overlap with their fellow members’. This allowed the team to have a wide and thorough range of knowledge.
But it wasn’t easy. The other counties at states were also very skilled. “I think we performed well against some very talented competition,” Barendse commented.
Additionally, there was a year off from CAC because of COVID- 19, which meant that most schools weren’t running practices and competing. The Manatee coach, Cathay Strate, acknowledged the difficult situation. “Considering we had a year off from practicing and competing, the team performed really well. Their dedication and commitment really shows in the result of the competition.”
Nealis also felt the uncertainty that Covid brought to the competition. “Because there was no state competition last year, our school team was unprepared for what States looked like and the intensity that it brings. I think next year’s competitors in Manatee County will be more excited and familiar with the gameplay after what we did.”
Christina Pommer, the coach of Saint Stephen’s academic team, was proud of the success. “It was a well earned top finish. They played really well as a team using their individual knowledge and worked well on the team questions.” She hopes next year to have more Saint Stephen’s students compete at states.