Academic Challenge begins another successful year

Academic Challenge trophy case near the SHS study hall.

Hannah Levenson

Academic Challenge trophy case near the SHS study hall.

Hannah Levenson, Editor-in-Chief

Academic Challenge is one of many clubs Solon High School (SHS) has to offer. Similar to Speech and Debate, Science Olympiad and Mock Trial, the club primarily focuses on competing in tournaments based on intellectual knowledge. Academic Challenge is a team-based competition that quizzes students on topics such as math, science, literature, history, arts and popular culture.

Since 2014, SHS’s Academic Challenge team has been led by English 10 teacher, Peter Bergman. Last school year, Bergman and his students took home a state championship title and participated in national competitions in Atlanta, Ga. and Chicago, Ill. The team placed seventh in the nation in Atlanta and in the top 10 in Chicago.

Three seniors who are Co-Presidents Rohan Naveentha and Prahalad Rao, as well as Treasurer Ethan Feldman, have made names for themselves during their time in Academic Challenge. All three seniors have participated in Academic Challenge since their freshman year and currently make up team A at tournaments, which is the main competing team for a school. Naveentha and Rao were also a part of the national team last school year. Feldman, Naveentha and Rao will also be appearing on the show, Academic Challenge. Their episode will premiere on Jan. 28 at 11:30 a.m. on News 5 Cleveland.

SHS’s Academic Challenge has won all four tournaments they have competed in so far this season. The team expects to compete in more tournaments this year at a rate of about one per month.

SHS’s Academic Challenge team also faces worthy opponents. Naveentha explained that many members of the team consider Beavercreek High School, which is located in the Dayton area, to be their biggest rival. Beavercreek High School also took home a state championship title last year.

“Last year, I had this big rival from Beavercreek High School,” Naveentha said. “We were in the same categories, and so we would always kind of split, or he would get a little more of [the points] and get the upper hand on me. In one of our state competitions, one of the final clinching questions was a literature question, which was both of our specialties, and I got it over him, and it really sealed our victory in the end.”

Rao explained that despite the club’s successes in competition, he feels that the club is underappreciated by other students.

“We’ve been one of the more successful clubs in the school recently,” Rao said. “I feel like we haven’t gotten the recognition…My hope is that as AC becomes more successful, we can be more recognized by the school.”

Bergman and academic challenge members have expressed that they would like to see some changes to the club itself.

Bergman stated Academic Challenge has around 15 to 30 students each year, and the majority of the members on the team are male. Bergman would like to see more women on the team because he sees that there are talented and knowledgeable women in this school who could be an asset to the team.

“We are always trying to encourage gender balance in the club,” Bergman said. “Having taught classes in the tenth grade, knowing how many incredible young women there are in this school, and to think that we couldn’t get more of them to be a part of the [Academic Challenge] team frustrates me at times.”

Bergman also expressed that he would like to see more students from different backgrounds. He would like to see Academic Challenge have more students who are involved in other activities like sports or creative activities in order to broaden the team’s horizon of students.

“As a club as a whole, we’re just trying to reach as wide of a population as we can,” Bergman said. “I think that [other schools’ teams] have people from different interests and sectors of their high school competing on the academic team. Here at Solon, it tends to be like kids who have been doing Science Olympiad for a long time, sort of in that zone. We have kids who do sports, and they’re in that zone…I would love to be able to bring a bigger cross-section in of all students because ultimately, it’s an activity where you get to celebrate knowledge.”