Downingtown East wins Academic Competition finals

Conestoga grabs JV crown, edges Unionville

By Steven Silverman, Staff Writer, The Times

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Members of the Downingtown East High School Academic Competition team celebrate a hard-fought and razor-thin win over West Chester Henderson for the county title, Wednesday.

DOWNINGTOWN—In a hard-fought match that came down to the wire, Downingtown East varsity defeated West Chester Henderson and Coatesville, 140-135-90, to take the 30th annual Chester County Academic Competition championship.

The match was close throughout—East and Henderson were never separated by more than 10 points between rounds—and ended in controversial fashion. Initially, East answered just enough final-round Fanfare questions (addressed only to one team at a time and answered collaboratively) to edge out Henderson by 5 points, or one question.

However, Henderson coach Stephen Sobieck challenged an earlier ruling that his team’s answer of “Battle of Lexington” was insufficient for a question looking for “Battle of Lexington and Concord.” The judges agreed, awarding Henderson five points and pushing the score to a tie. Before the dust had settled, though, Downingtown East challenged one of Henderson’s answers. Captain Griffin Cahill had answered “The Jabberwocky” in a Fanfare question about the Lewis Carroll poem Jabberwocky. The question asked for the name of the title monster, which is actually the Jabberwock. The judges again upheld the challenge, dropping Henderson back to 135 points and into second place.

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The Downingtown East Academic Competition team, along with their coaches and several administrators, pose with their winnings and the county trophy.

Coatesville, which upset perennial powers Conestoga and Unionville in the preliminary round, wasn’t able to follow up with a second strong outing taking third place.

The variety and depth of knowledge shown by the participants was extremely impressive.

As venerable quizmaster Jim Stoddard put it, “We always enjoy coming out and watching these kids. They’re what it’s all about.” Downingtown East was powered by Nick Wu and captain Neil Vinjamuri, while Henderson’s top contributors were Cahill and Maggie Mitchell. Topics ranged from current events like the situation in the Ukraine to the names of various animal phyla.

In the junior varsity competition that preceded the main event, Conestoga rode a perfect final Fanfare round to a dramatic 115-110 victory over second-place Unionville. West Chester East was a distant third with 65.

By virtue of their victory, Downingtown East, coached by Darryl McCauley and Alyssa Read, gets the privilege of representing Chester County in the state tournament, to be held on May 2 in Harrisburg; Conestoga, as the reigning state champion, receives an automatic berth. (There is no state tournament at the junior varsity level.) Downingtown East also receives $2000 from Franklin Mint Federal Credit Union, the event sponsor, towards academic activities, while Henderson and Coatesville get $1000 and $500 respectively.

Henderson had been in the state tournament for the past three years, winning the county and state championships in 2011, the state title again in 2012, and finishing second to Conestoga after a tiebreak finish last year.

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Tags: Chester County Academic Competition, Coatesville Area High School, Conestoga, Downingtown East High School, unionville, West Chester henderson High School

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