By Seth Woods, LifeSmarts Outreach Coordinator
For several weeks, high school students across the country are competing in LifeSmarts state tournaments, earning automatic bids to the National Championship in Atlanta. Outreach Coordinator Seth Woods is attending several of these events and submitted this report.
40-degree weather might be cold for most Floridians, but the competition was hot in Tampa on Monday, as students from across the state competed for the LifeSmarts state championship. Teams participated in a variety of activities, including written topic assessment tests, on-stage buzzer matches, and a set of lightning rounds done “speed-dating” style. A popular hit at nationals in Philadelphia last year, this was the first time speed dating was used at a state competition—and the players seemed to enjoy as much this year as last.
This was also the first year the Florida tournament used cumulative scoring (similar to the format used at the national tournament). Because the new system allows for off-stage events, it gives students that are slower on the buzzer a chance to show their smarts. Freeport High’s Michael Hoobler is a perfect example of this: a whiz in technology, he scored higher than anyone else on the topic assessments even though his team lost three of their four matches on stage.
Of course, the buzzer matches were still the main event—and there were quite a few barnburners to witness. The first semifinal between the Paxon and the Jacksonville was a back-and-forth struggle, the Eagles taking an early lead only for the Hurricanes to claw right back in to contention. Captain Robert Engel and star Jonah Vroegindewey did their best to keep their team in the fight, but in the end it was all Paxon, sealing a spot in the finals with a 128 – 100 win.
The second Paxon team sealed the other spot in the finals for an all-Eagles showdown, and despite excellent performances from both teams all day it wasn’t even close. Sophomore Harrison Andrew (a veteran, the only student returning from last year’s national 2nd place team) was unstoppable, scoring more points in just the challenge round than his opponents would earn the entire match. With a final score of 222 – 103, Paxon SAS showed everyone that they were here to win—and might even “take home the hardware” from Atlanta.
In the end, it seemed everyone had a great time, including the spectators and wellwishers at the state fairgrounds. Thanks to coordinator Gwen Worlds and the staff from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for all their hard work putting this event together, and for the free fair tickets each student and coach received. Seriously, tell all your friends in Florida, everyone that plays LifeSmarts gets free admission to the Florida State Fair. Even if you can’t take home the blue ribbon you could take home a giant stuffed animal!
The next report: Seth heads to Birmingham for more southern hospitality at the Alabama State Tournament.