West Chester East wins state academic competition

Pictured from left to right are Alex Chen, Dr. Brent Jones, Ethan Altshul, Ricky He, Luke Eynon, Owen Lyons, Nathan Schlamb, Brian Schiele, and Eliot Rufe, the 2023-24 academic competition team for West Chester East High School and the 2024 Pennsylvania State Academic Champions.

Chester County’s West Chester East High School took the victory at the 2024 Pennsylvania State Academic Competition on Friday, April 26, when 19 high school academic teams representing Pennsylvania competed for the title of state champion.

Now in its 33rd year, the Pennsylvania State Academic Competition was hosted by Representative John A. Lawrence of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, sponsored by the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), and coordinated by the Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU).

“This year’s state competition was intense. Each of the competing teams demonstrated remarkable prowess, not only in intellect but also in sportsmanship and camaraderie, setting a commendable standard for future competitions,” said Jay Della Ragione, special events coordinator for the CCIU. “Returning to the Capitol as our venue adds an extra layer of pomp to the event, not only for our staff but for the students as well. It is an honor to have the support of Representative Lawrence and PSEA again this year, and I hope to perpetuate those partnerships going forward.”

In the exciting and competitive daylong competition, it was West Chester East High School that placed first with 100 points in the championship match. Cedar Crest High School of Lebanon County placed second with 80 points and Upper Dublin High School of Montgomery County came in third with 65 points. West Chester East was presented with a $2,000 scholarship; Cedar Crest was awarded a $500 scholarship for second place, and Upper Dublin received a $500 scholarship for third place.

“I can’t even tell you how overwhelming this is. We’ve been at states for three years in a row; today’s victory is the culmination of a team that has been playing together for four years and this is what they wanted to do,” said Nathan Schlamb, coach of the West Chester East High School academic competition team. “They acted as a team; the distribution of correct answers among all of them was just incredible. We came back from a deficit to win, and I couldn’t be prouder of the team.”

“Every year has felt like another hurdle climbed, and this year we reached the mountaintop,” said Ethan Altshul, senior on the West Chester East High School academic competition team.

When asked what advice he would give to future academic competition participants, he answered, “Develop genuine curiosity about a topic. There’s a lot of students who learn in the classroom really well, but the students who excel at this are the ones who are so interested by a topic that they are willing to study outside of the classroom.”

Alex Chen, Altshul’s teammate and the team’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) for this year, added, “Another huge aspect of it is building that team chemistry. We could not have done this at all if we viewed ourselves as individuals at the table. We view each other genuinely as one unit, like a hive mind, who go out there and answer questions. When someone does poorly, we all pick that person up and don’t leave them behind when the questions keep going. It’s not just about studying together.”

The Pennsylvania State Academic Competition promotes lifelong learning, celebrates academic achievement, and enhances self confidence in high school students as members of a team by providing healthy yet challenging opportunities for students to develop academic, social, and personal skills. For a list of competing teams and the final scores, please visit www.cciu.org/state-competition.
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