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Clear champions

March 28, 2004|by GREGORY T. SIMMONS

gregs@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Jennifer Fields' hands were clasped under her chin as she recited answers to herself.

Fields, a 17-year-old Clear Spring High School student, was going over the questions she thought might be asked one more time before the final round of Saturday's Washington County Public Schools Academic Team Championships at South Hagerstown High School.

"I have world leaders, stock exchanges, cabinet officers" on flash cards her mother was holding at that moment, Fields said. She said some of her teammates know more in one area than another, but "we just try to know everything."

Nine teams from the eight county schools faced off against each other Saturday for the championship.

The initial three semifinal rounds each had three teams, which produced one winner apiece. The final pitted the three semifinal winners against each other with as much knowledge as they could produce in five to 10 seconds.

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Although there were two disputed questions in the first round of the championship game, Clear Spring High School won decisively.

A question about ribonucleic acid was tossed after one contestant's mother, also a doctor, disputed the moderator's answer. The following question, asking what a "joule" was, was reversed after a coach produced a previous academic competition answer that contradicted the moderator's answer.

A sampling of some of the other correct answers in the final round showed a wide berth of categories: melody; Roosevelt; Bush and Adams; caste system; protons; Lee Boyd Malvo; Erie and Ontario; "The Scarlet Letter"; Annika Sorenstam.

As the questions came in rapid succession, the students pounded buzzers to be the first to answer. In earlier rounds, teams weren't penalized for wrong answers, but as the competition went on, wrong answers became more costly.

Cory Bush, 16, was on the Washington County Technical High School team that lost in the third semifinal game. Practice, he said, could have made perfect.

"We were out of practice. .... We knew the answers. They were just 'bang' - in before us" on the buzzer, Bush said.

Bush's teammate Joe Osborne, 16, credited a fast Boonsboro team.

"Boonsboro's good. ... It's really high paced," Osborne said.

Boonsboro won its semifinal round against the Technical High School and Hancock High School, but lost in the final against Smithsburg and Clear Spring.

Andrew Shifler, 17, was at the buzzer for the Boonsboro team in the final round.

"Smithsburg, they were very quick. So was Clear Spring," Shifler said.

The loss wasn't a major downer for the teen, though, because he said he was just happy to be there as a senior. Washington County skipped the competition last year.

Clear Spring won the competition as well as the most scholarship money - $400 for the team in each round they won for a total of $800, which was donated by Hagerstown Trust.

Fields, who had been practicing answers with her mother minutes before the championship game, summed up the win in one word.

"Wonderful."

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