COMPETITION, the great motivator, works in classrooms as well as on the football field.
"It's Academic," a weekly television quiz program, gives students the opportunity to compete in an academic arena -- and on Saturday, viewers saw a local team fight its way to victory.
Atholton High School's "It's Academic" team topped opponents from Frederick County's Middletown High and Anne Arundel's Northeast High on the show taped last month and broadcast on WJZ-TV (Channel 13).
"It was a tough match," said Sandra Gaffigan, media specialist and sponsor for the Atholton team, which she has coached for six years. "They are a wonderful group of kids to work with."
Team members meet once a week to practice. They have to be prepared for questions on subjects ranging from math to medieval history.
The students sold candy bars to purchase the buzzer system they use during practice. They press a button on the buzzer box to signal that they know the answer.
Gaffigan said it doesn't help to have the answer if you're not quicker than the competition in hitting the buzzer.
Atholton's team has 13 members this year. Through a series of scrimmages among themselves and against area high school teams, three were chosen to participate in the televised competition -- Dan Singer, Ed Longstreth and Michael Wu.
Singer, 18, a senior who is in his fourth year on the team, was chosen as captain.
He said he likes participating because he enjoys trivia, and "It's Academic" is like a high school version of the television show, "Jeopardy."
He plans to attend the Naval Academy next year.
Wu, 16, a junior, said team members have areas of expertise. "Ed is the geography man; I'm the math and science guy," he said. Singer is the history and literature expert.
Appearing on stage, under the lights and in front of a live audience during the taping, doesn't bother Singer.
"There's a little pressure, but I think it's pretty exciting," he said.
Somen De attended the taping as team alternate.
Atholton team members also include freshmen Brendan Mortimer and Theodore Meyer; sophomores Emilie Ziemer, John Olson and Jeff Berman; juniors Cindy Cheung, Arun Raum and Pooya Woodcock; and senior Todd Gillette.
Singer, Wu and Longstreth will compete in the next round against Linganore High and Thomas Johnson High, both Frederick County schools. The match is scheduled for taping April 10, and is to air May 15.
Miss Howard County
Elise Lael Oesterreicher, the reigning Miss Howard County, is preparing to give up her title.
The new Miss Howard County will be crowned March 13 at a pageant in the Great Room at Savage Mill.
Oesterreicher, 21, is a graduate of Wilde Lake High School and Jacksonville University in Jacksonville, Fla., where she graduated summa cum laude. She is pursuing a country music singing career in Nashville, Tenn., using the stage name Elise Lael.
She is youngest of four children of Hugh and Kathleen Oesterreicher of Running Brook. The other children are Dawna, 32, Maria, 30, and Joshua, 26.
Kathleen Oesterreicher said that when the family goes out to dinner, her husband, a civil engineer and director of construction for Howard Research and Development, will say to the waiter, "Do you know who this is? You're serving Miss Howard County."
Elise said, "He is so proud of me, and I love him for it. But he embarrasses me terribly."
One reason she decided to compete last year, Elise said, was because "I wanted a crown. My mom offered to buy me one, and I said no, because I wanted to win one on my own merits."
She joked about wearing it to bed, but did say it is on display in her bedroom.
Oesterreicher also received $300 in scholarships and $900 for finishing among the top 10 at the Miss Maryland competition.
"It was a wonderful year and an incredible honor" to be chosen, she said, looking forward to crowning her successor in a ceremony in which the crown is passed to the new Miss Howard County.
"I'm on to a new part of my life now, and think that crowning the next Miss Howard County will be the most beautiful way I could imagine to say goodbye to that part of my life," she said.
The competition includes judging in four phases: talent, which accounts for 40 percent of the score; interview, 30 percent; and swimsuit and evening wear, each 15 percent.
Irish music, poetry
The Howard County Poetry and Literature Society (HoCoPoLitSo) will present its 21st Evening of Irish Music and Poetry at 8 p.m. Friday in the Jim Rouse Theatre at Wilde Lake High School.
The event features Colm Toibin, described as "the best Irish writer of his generation" by The Irish Independent newspaper.
Members of the Celtic Thunder band and Dominick Murray, a former band member, will perform, as will world champion step-dancer Paul Cusick.
West Columbians Ellen Kennedy, Prudence Barry and Jean Moon are founding members of HoCoPoLitSo.
Kennedy said her husband Pat had the idea to offer an evening of Irish music and poetry. Catherine McLoughlin-Hayes, a resident of Town Center but originally from County Roscommon in Ireland, is chairwoman of the Irish evening.
"It's not just a literary, musical and cultural event, but a real social event as well," she said. "There are people who haven't missed a year in 21 years."
Tickets are available by telephone for $21 by calling 410-730-1802, Ext. 2, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Pupil earns honors
Congratulations to John Protzko, a ninth-grader at St. Thomas More School in Oakdale, Conn.
The son of west Columbia resident Barbara Stokel, he is on the "High Honor Roll" for the second marking period.
Pub Date: 2/17/99