By Seth Woods, LifeSmarts Outreach Coordinator
For several weeks, high school students across the country will be 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.
I’ve now been on the road nearly a full week, covering three state finals in the last five days. I think the travel is starting to get to me, but witnessing these competitions has kept my spirits high.
After landing in Wichita last weekend, I headed to Jefferson City to help with Missouri’s JV competition. Middle school students came to the state capital to show their smarts—and they did exceptionally well, considering how difficult the questions were. These kids are still years from getting their drivers’ licenses, but knew all about cars and auto repair! Eleven teams worked their way through the double-elimination bracket, and in the end it took an extra tiebreaker round for Blair Oaks Green Machine to secure the win. Coach Cynthia Sullivan was very proud of her students’ victory, as this was the first year she brought a LifeSmarts team to state.
Perhaps even more exciting was the Kansas Varsity competition, where coach Vicki Galloway was trying to set a LifeSmarts record of five consecutive state championships with her Nickerson High School team (they also won the national title back in 2011). Things were looking good: at the end of cumulative scoring, NHS was in the lead by a huge 60-point margin over their nearest rivals from Maize County South. Of course, once the cumulative section ends, the scores are reset–meaning it was anybody’s game.
The finals were a doozy, with the lead changing five times during the match. Nickerson came out to an early lead in the team-plus round but faltered in the team activity, allowing Maize South to come back. Halfway through the challenge round, Barton County looked out of it, behind by more than 40 points, but Bryce Divis’s quick buzzer finger pulled them back into contention to be down by just six points. The last question was worth ten points, and all three teams were within the margin. Whoever got it right would be the state champion, and in true LifeSmarts fashion we didn’t even hear the end of the question.
Maize’s Tina Langley was quick, and (more importantly) correct. With a single word from her lips (I’m not going to tell you what it is, there are still states that might use that question) she toppled one of the greatest dynasties in LifeSmarts history. After the match, I went over and asked them what was going through their minds.
“We didn’t even think we’d make the finals,” captain John Donaldson said. “Last year we were dead last, we were just hoping to get 7th place.”
That may be the last time anyone underestimates these practical prodigies. In Atlanta, Cinderella might come from a wheat field.
The next report: Seth heads to the bayou for Louisiana’s first state tournament in more than a decade.