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Hanes comes out on top in academic duel

Adam Gaspar (center) talks on Friday, April 11, 2014, with some of his fellow team members from Hanes Magnet Middle School, about winning the National Academic League championship. (David Rolfe/Journal)

Adam Gaspar (center) talks on Friday, April 11, 2014, with some of his fellow team members from Hanes Magnet Middle School, about winning the National Academic League championship. (David Rolfe/Journal)

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Hanes Magnet Middle School has bragging rights for another year after taking home the title of National Academic League champions this week.

Hanes’ team defeated the team from Roland Park Middle School in Baltimore on Thursday for the national title – its second in the past six years.

The team has had a good run in the competition, last winning in 2007, finishing as runner-up in 2012 and competing in the semi-finals last year.

“At the end of the match, we had a feeling we’d probably won,” said eighth-grader Brie Noyes. “But we’re not allowed to say anything until the final scores are read. It was suspenseful.”

Until it wasn’t.

With a final score of 57-48, Hanes was named champ.

The academic-league competition pits students from two schools against each other in a competition to see which team is best at answering questions on everything from relatively easy spelling questions to complex logic problems.

The competition is done by teleconference, allowing teams to participate remotely.

The match has four quarters.

During the first quarter, teams answer as many questions as quickly as they can for one point each, but lose possession when they get an answer wrong. The second quarter is a team question-and-answer period. Five members of each team get three minutes to answer each question, which is on an index card that is dropped onto the table where the players are sitting.

The third quarter features a presentation about a topic. During the fourth quarter, team officials pose questions to one member of each team simultaneously. They buzz in to answer, and get two points for a correct answer, but lose a point for each wrong answer.

The fourth-quarter is where Hanes shined Thursday. Down by two points going into the final round, Hanes’ team outscored its opponents 19-8 for the win.

“In the fourth quarter we dominated, like we always do,” said eighth-grader Akshat Dixit.

In the fourth quarter, questions can be answered by any of the five team members who are participating at the time. That allows the team to take advantage of the depth and breadth of their combined knowledge, said seventh-grader Thomas Ross.

“We have a lot of strengths on the team,” Ross said.

The team is open to students from all grades, so sixth, seventh and eighth graders work together.

Meeting kids they otherwise might not know is one of the best parts of being part of the team, said seventh-grader Maddie Smith.

“Camaraderie is a big part of it,” she said.

The club starts in September and runs through the national tournament in April. They meet once a week to practice as a team, but team members are also expected to study on their own at home. The students were still giddy with their victory Friday, after receiving high fives from the entire school that morning.

“They’ve earned every second of this celebration,” said Nicole Newtown, one of the team’s coaches and a sixth-grade science teacher. “I’m so proud of them.”

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