Blair's It's Academic team places second in international competition


Jan. 7, 2004, midnight | By Katherine Zhang | 17 years ago

Team also wins TV tournament, qualifies for playoffs


Blair's It's Academic team recently placed second in the international Knowledge Master Open (KMO) competition. In addition, the team defeated teams Lake Braddock and Wootton High Schools in a taped tournament that aired on NBC on Dec. 27.

KMO is an international contest which "pits 872 high schools from around the world against each other in a timed computerized competition," according to a press release. The competition took place in the Media Center on Dec. 2, and 34 students participated, said coach David Swaney. Following its tradition of performing well in the KMO competition, Blair's team answered 196 out of 200 questions correctly for a total of 1,774 out of 2,000 possible points. The team's high score placed Blair first in the state of Maryland, second in the nation, and second in the world for the fall competition.

According to Swaney, Blair almost always places in the top five for the KMO competition and has been in top three for the past five years.

The competition was conducted using a computer disk KMO sent to participating schools. The disk contained the 200 questions for the competition and was programmed to run and record the score only once. All questions were multiple choice, and the team received points based on how much time it took to answer the questions correctly.

According to senior Abhi Nargundkar, a member of the It's Academic team, the questions were displayed on a projector screen, and students who knew the answer shouted out the response and were confirmed by others.

The questions for KMO spanned a wide range of topics. "It just covers everything, even grammar," said coach David Fantegrossi. According to the press release, topics for the questions included American history, government, economics, math, science, popular culture and more.

The competition took the students all of first block and 20 minutes of second block to complete, according to senior Ning Bao, captain of Blair's It's Academic team.

"I think it was a little more impressive this year because we didn't have any time to prepare," said senior Jonathan Magin, who has participated on It's Academic since his freshman year. According to Bao, the KMO competition "came on us really quickly" this year, and problems such as power outages and difficulty locating practice disks prevented the team from preparing as much as they would have liked.

In addition, Blair's It's Academic's TV team, consisting of Bao, Magin and senior Minghui Yang, won the Dec 27 tournament by a large margin. "It was a pretty exciting match," said Nargundkar. The team qualified for the playoffs, which will be taped on Feb. 21 and aired sometime in March.

Besides the KMO competition and the TV tournament, Blair's It's Academic team has participated in many tournaments this year. At tournaments, a team is usually a group of four, and Blair's It's Academic team is separated into several smaller groups labeled "A", "B" and "C." While not all groups participated in all tournaments, they are considered separate teams when Blair does send more than one team, "just like teams from different schools," described Fantegrossi. "A" team is composed of experienced seniors, while "C" team is primarily freshmen and sophomores. Early in the year, students were ranked based on the results of an 80-question written test and a buzzer tryout, where speed became a factor. "It's kind of a weird process, but there is a process by which we assign a number to everyone," said Fantegrossi.

Competitions that Blazers have participated in this year include tournaments at Blake High School and Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Prince George's County. The "A" team lost to Gonzaga High School in the second round of the playoffs in the first tournament of the year at Blake High School on Oct. 4 but placed second overall at the Keegan Tournament, another competition at Blake, on Oct. 14. On Nov. 15, the team competed in a tournament hosted by Eleanor Roosevelt High School, where "C" team performed surprisingly well and made the playoffs. "It was a really spectacular performance by those newcomers," Nargundkar stated. In addition, Blair sent two teams to the University of Maryland tournament on Nov. 23.

"I think it's great," Fantegrossi asserted about Blair's It's Academic team. "They come with this knowledge already. There's not much I could teach them. I think Blair itself kind of gathers together these minds. There's not much to it except have them show up."



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Katherine Zhang. Katherine Zhang likes French baguettes, Pyotr Tchaikovsky, bookmarks, fresh boxes of rosin, Brad Meltzer novels, and of course, "JAG." In her free time, Katherine enjoys knitting, playing the violin, and reading - especially legal thrillers and books about people in faraway places and long-ago times. … More »

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