Mason Academic Team Wins State Championship

academic-001The George Mason High School Scholastic Bowl team won the VHSL State Championship today. They finished their season undefeated, 26-0, retaining the state title they earned last year.

academic-002The George Mason High School Scholastic Bowl team won the VHSL State Championship Saturday. They finished their season undefeated, 26-0, retaining the state title they earned last year.

This win marks the team’s fifth state title, and the eighth time in the past 10 years that the team has finished in the top two.

Mason qualified for the state tournament by winning the Region B tournament. Both the winners and the runners-up in regional competition made up the eight teams that competed at the state tournament. The tournament format was double-elimination, meaning that only teams defeated twice would be eliminated from competition.

Senior team members Asher Morse, Anuraag Sensharma, Ross Wilson and Jakob Hand opened the state tournament, played at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, with a match they won against Mathews High School, 350-90.

They then played Radford High School, the only other team in the state to have won as many scholastic bowl state championships. Mason won 310-115.

From there they went on to play their most challenging match of the tournament. Nandua High School, the Region A winners, tied the team 60-60 in the first round of the match, then pulled ahead in the second round, 150-140.

“Nandua, who really did have an excellent team, one which could easily have won the state in a ‘normal’ year, took our team down to the wire,” said Scholastic Bowl Adviser and George Mason Social Studies Teacher Jamie Scharff. “They played great, we played so-so, and made a few little mistakes that we usually don’t.”

Mason was able to come back in the third round, however, which ended in a tie, 215-215, and resulted in a sudden-death tiebreaker. Morse secured the win with the tiebreaking question, earning the team an additional 10 points.

“It was our closest game in the last two years,” Morse said.

For Morse, playing Nandua was an interesting chance to play a fairly evenly matched team.

“Nandua had been getting around the same scores as we had during regionals,” Morse said. “I thought we’d be pretty comparable.”academic-001

“We still made it to the final with no losses, and would play the finals only needing to win one while our opponent would need to beat us twice,” Scharff said.

In the finals of the tournament, they met Nandua again, and defeated the team 270-170, taking the state championship.

“I am confident this team is the strongest team I’ve ever seen in group A in the 11 years I’ve taken teams to the state tournament,” Scharff said. “I’m incredibly proud of this team, because I’ve seen how much they’ve learned over the course of the last three or four years. I’m also extremely proud of their sportsmanship and comportment at all the events we attend. Even after the championship final, all four of them immediately got up to go shake hands with their opponents before they even began to congratulate each other and celebrate their win.”

And while the team now has the state tournament win under its belt, their matches are far from over. This Saturday, they will tape their “It’s Academic” playoff appearance. They will also be playing some local tournaments to warm up for the NAQT High School National Championship in May.

The seniors who have become academic all-stars during their years on the team will be graduating this year, which for Scharff means a rebuilding year.

“We are graduating our top six players, with no one returning who has played at all in a competitive setting, so the expectations for next year should not be very high. We will just do what we always do – enjoy practicing and playing, and see what happens as far as improvement compared to our competition when the time comes. It’s actually a lot of fun to watch a team grow over the course of time, and next year it will be growing practically from square one.”

“I just hope people will come out and keep getting something out of it,” Morse said of competing with the scholastic bowl team. “I have very fond memories of it, and I’m grateful for the time I’ve had.”