Centennial's academic teams enjoy successful season

In the world of high school competition, it's usually the athletic teams that get all the attention. At Centennial High School this year, for example, sports teams have had their share of success, led by the volleyball team that made it to the state finals.

But it's another area where Centennial students have shone lately — academics.

The Centennial "It's Academic" team recently won first place in the Baltimore-Metro Championships, gaining air-time on the Saturday morning television show on WJZ, Chanel 13. The team went on to place second in the "It's Academic" Super Bowl, taped May 18 in Washington, D.C.

Other "It's Academic" team members, too, have enjoyed success this year, with a junior varsity history team coming in second place nationwide in the National History Bowl in Washington, D.C., in April.

"To have that recognition, not just at the local and regional level, but also nationally, means that we're continuing a really strong tradition of our academic competition," said Centennial Principal Carl Perkins. "This lets students who are interested in these things participate in a big way. We have a lot of students on our athletic teams, but it appears we have a growing number of students interested in these kinds of competition. It means a lot in term of having something that satisfies the interests of those students."

Perkins said Centennial has had an "It's Academic" team for "easily 15 years," and this isn't the first time the It's Academic Team has enjoyed success — Centennial also won the Baltimore-Metro Championships in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009, as well as this year. In 2009, the team also won the "It's Academic Super Bowl."

The teams' successes have drawn the attention of the Howard County Public School System administration and the Board of Education. At the board meeting May 23, Superintendent Renee Foose recognized the Centennial students — seniors Matt Keimig, Clarissa Santori and sophomore Ryan Heslin — for their achievements. Additionally, in the Baltimore region, four of the nine semifinal high school teams were from Howard County — Oakland Mills, Howard, Hammond and Centennial.

"We've all seen that show," she said. "You know the questions are extremely hard."

Hammond and Centennial both advanced to the finals, Foose said, and after "a hard match," Centennial came out on top. However, the team fell to students from Montgomery County's Blake High School, in Silver Spring.

According to the "It's Academic" website, the 2012-13 regional semifinals, finals and Super Bowl have yet to air.

The team that placed second, made up of Centennial juniors Weijia Cheng, Gary Tse and senior Anant Mishra, as well as Heslin, in the National History Bowl also received recognition from Foose.

"It's honorable that you advanced so far and achieved so well," Foose said.

Representatives from the National History Bowl, including director David Madden, were also on hand at Centennial Tuesday, May 21, for an assembly and presentation of the team's second-place trophy.

What success for these teams boils down to, Perkins said, is a balance between knowledge (on a broad range of subjects, from history to science, from sports to current events) and a quick trigger-finger.

"Each team has its own strengths," he said. "The teams that do well, it's not always about how much they know but how fast they can hit the buzzer. You might have a team quick on the buzzer, but without that knowledge, or vice-versa. It's about having a good combination of those things and working with it."

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