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Academic team looks forward after defeat


Susie Samet and Carrie Gifford were philosophical about their team's loss this week in a regional competition that was part of a national academics contest for middle schools.

The eighth-graders at Fallstaff Middle School in Northwest Baltimore and 28 of their schoolmates are this city's National Academic League champions. The league pits teams against each other to test their knowledge of geography, science, social studies, math and English.

The Fallstaff team lost their first regional contest on Tuesday when they competed by satellite against a school in Pasadena, Texas, a town near Houston. The score was 65-36.

"It wasn't so much that we were the worse team," said 13-year-old Susie, who is interested in marine biology and science.

"The other team was more experienced. We were disappointed, but we were able to look at what our strong points were."

The Texas team has been competing and studying for two years, said Susie.

The Fallstaff team began boning up on academic trivia earlier this year when six city schools joined the league. Baltimore's participation is being financed by the Abell Foundation.

The middle-school league is similar to the national "It's Academic" competition for high schools.

Susie said she joined the Fallstaff team because "there aren't many things for the smarter people in school."

"We have a sports team, but it's for boys, and being a girl, it was a good opportunity to show what I'd learned and to have fun.

"And you have to be able to think fast," she said.

Carrie, who wants to be a physical therapist, also seemed to take the loss in stride.

"I really liked it because it brought me a lot closer to my friends and made me feel more confident about myself," she said, explaining that she was one of the team captains in Tuesday's game. Her team named the Great Lakes and defined an abolitionist.

The team's coach, William McCarron, a foreign language teacher, said the team will begin competing locally again in September.

The National Academic League was started in 1991 with eight junior high schools in Salt Lake City and has since spread to Miami, Houston, Seattle, Oklahoma City and Kansas City, Mo., as well as Baltimore.

The city school system approved joining the league because the extracurricular activity stresses academics rather than sports.

Bill Endres, project manager for the Abell Foundation and commissioner of the Baltimore league, said he hopes to double the number of academic teams by adding another six middle schools next year.

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