The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

March 17, 2010

Grand River students hit the books to prepare for academic challenges


AUSTINBURG — With spring soon approaching, the change in sports, activities and thoughts of summer vacation fill many students’ time. While many students at Grand River Academy are wielding tennis racquets, lacrosse sticks and baseball bats, others are competing in several different academic competitions in Ashtabula County and Cleveland. This will be GRA’s second year competing in the Kent State University Ashtabula Math Day, in which GRA placed first team overall last year, and the Ashtabula County Scholastic Bowl, which saw GRA place fourth team overall. GRA is also adding another event to the academic list, Cleveland News Channel 5’s Academic Challenge.

GRA will be participating in the Kent State University Ashtabula Math Day Friday at the Ashtabula Campus. The 2009 event left GRA with a first place team trophy, nine students placing in the top 20 scores and individual winners in first and third places. The 2010 competition is hoped to be another great year for the GRA team.

“We are eager to bring a bus full of 21 students who are taking classes ranging from pre calculus to advanced calculus,” said Bill Thomas, GRA calculus teacher and co-adviser for the math team. “The team has seven boys who participated in the competition last year, so we are really hoping to carry over some of the success from the previous competition, and give our new students the chance to compete against some of the top math students in the region!”

The 2010 Ashtabula County Scholastic Bowl was held March 1 at Pymatuning Valley High School. GRA competed along with eight other Ashtabula County schools.

Robert Archer, GRA American literature teacher and the academic team coach, commented after the competition. “I had very high expectations from our team this year,” he said. “I think they handled themselves well and have made Grand River very proud.”

GRA’s team consisted of seniors Robbie O’Guinn from Indianapolis, Ind., and Ben Sesso from Chicago as well as junior David Thomas from Austinburg. Alternates were Jay Damodaran from San Bernardino, Calif., and Matt Jarkewicz from Willoughby, both juniors.

In the first round of the competition GRA faced Jefferson and Grand Valley high schools, in this round teams answered individual questions as well as timed responses and buzzed in answers. Unfortunately, GRA came up short in the first round to Jefferson High School, who would go on to win the competition.

“I hoped we would have done better this year since I think we had a better team, but I’m still very happy with our placing,” said team captain Robbie O’Guinn.

GRA placed sixth in the overall rank compared to the 2009 placing of fourth.

“I had a great time competing this year and I thought we did very well,” said Ben Sesso. “I do wish that our team would have placed higher but this will give us greater incentive to do well in the Cleveland competition.”

The newest springtime academic competition that students will be participating in is the Cleveland News Channel 5’s Academic Challenge. This event will be Saturday at the Cleveland station and will be broadcast on May 15. GRA will be competing against Ledgemont and Strasburg-Franklin high schools in a similar format to the Ashtabula County competition.

“I have very high hopes for this event,” said O’Guinn. “We are working hard to prepare for the challenge by watching recorded episodes and Jeopardy.”

Team members for this event will be the same as the Scholastic Bowl at Pymatuning.

As GRA is becoming more involved in the community through more service projects, the new football club sport and the lacrosse club sport, students also get a chance at academic programs and competitions such as the Ashtabula County Scholastic Bowl and the KSU-A Math Day Competition, as well as new competitions including the Cleveland News Channel 5’s Academic Challenge. Grand River Academy is hoping to test students’ knowledge while engaging with other schools in the community.