1999 PAC

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The 1999 PAC was won by a Florida team featuring Erik Nielsen, who would later get a part on the TV show Community. The 2nd place team was a South Carolina team coached by Hodges Lewis, who helped run ACE. Here is an account of the tournament from the perspective of Team Illinois:

Team Illinois by Debbie Martin, PORTA HS, Petersburg
Team Illinois ... courageous, intelligent, thoughtful, delightful, aggressive, sportsmen, team-workers, future leaders of America. These are just a few things that come to mind when I hear the words “Team Illinois”.
I graduated from a small school in central Illinois in a class of 25. (That was on our best day!) I also participated in Scholastic Bowl at my alma mater of Waverly High. My coach was very kind to us, taught us many things beyond the curriculum, and only would I realize later, a lot about coaching. I then had the pleasure of becoming the coach here at PORTA High, a school that used to beat the pants off my little school in Scholastic Bowl! I realized early on in my coaching years that the schools that PORTA was known to play could beat the pants off of us.
It was only at this point in my life I realized that these students awe me. It seemed so easy in school to compete in our little triangular meets. Ask me a question I either know it or I don’t. Either way it doesn’t hurt us. And besides when the question was way out there it always scored points with the faculty to give their name in response to a “who am I” question. Somehow as I get older the questions get harder or I may just be forgetting the simple things that we drill into our students each and every day. We must be doing some thing right, coaches, because we sent some of the brightest students to Florida this past summer.
How bright were they? At times, Coach Grierson and I would just look at one another trying to catch up with an explanation of a formula. The team had listened to it being explained, thought through the process, worked through a sample problem, followed by the ever-famous “Oh yes, how stupid could I be to forget that!” All the time thinking to myself “I am glad they understand because I was lost after, “You see if you take ...”
It was an honor to co-coach Team Illinois in the Panasonic Academic Challenge in Walt Disney World this summer. Last year I had a student from PORTA chosen for Team Illinois. Little did I realize that it was training for this year. Last year the thrill of victory was there for Team Illinois placing 5th in the nation. And believe me, this year everyone was watching out for Team Illinois. The team knew there was work to be done. Each member was the best of their school, but would they work together? Surprisingly, yes! We (I mean all of us) put our years of rivalry behind us and became a team. They had to learn to play with each other, not against each other. They had to learn not to take a chance, and isn’t that what we have taught them for so many years? They had to learn a completely different format, not two halves, but three rounds of multiple part toss-up style questions. Once the question had been attempted it could no longer be available. Oh yes, did I say the team had to get used to playing with five other teams as well as staring at a panel of about twelve judges?
Team Illinois had to get used to not only gaining points, which look good when you start with 100 points, but also then having the judges take them away when you give incorrect answers. However, they did like the aspect of being able to jump in and finish the thought of their teammate when they would lose their thought. And coaches, do you know that look the team gives you when they want you to protest something to the officials here in Illinois? Guess what! We had to give that look to the team! We, as coaches, can say nothing. The team can protest to the judges and the judges can take time research and come back later in the game and award or deduct points. Additionally, a team may protest another team’s answer that was ruled as correct. Wow! Is that not a lot for a team who just came off of state finals battling against each other have to overcome. Oh yes, not to forget Coach Grierson and me. They had to get used to us. Our ways were much different than that of their home coach. Sometimes playing “Mom and Dad” and sometimes being “friend” and all the time being “adult chaperones” When possible we coached them too. Doing everything from getting them to dress alike and be on time, to humming the 9th symphony of Beethoven.
Unfortunately, Team Illinois had extremely tough teams to compete against this year and did not make it to the finals. We lost our first match to the Pennsylvania team that won the PACE National a week later, and our second match to the Maryland team that finished third at the PAC. Many of you are probably familiar with “Attitude”, the little “A” person that the IHSA promoted this year. He was everywhere. Well, IHSA, it worked. At least with the students we had.
After losing our first round we were scheduled to play Maryland the next round. Maryland was the defending champions and had deemed Illinois worthy of practice rounds before the tournament started. What an honor for Illinois! Maryland is a name that is known throughout the Panasonic Tournament with a reputation of always placing in the top three. They did not let anyone down this year. Knowing our competition we couldn’t very well practice against them the night before our match with them. So we asked the Texas team if they would like to join us for a scrimmage. Surprisingly, they gave up a trip to Downtown Disney and accepted our challenge.
So there we were, in one of our usual two and a half-hour practice session playing Team Texas. They were just like us here in Illinois. Battling to overcome the need to attempt the question. After a little guidance, and a few of “don’t touch that buzzer unless you absolutely know that answer!” They were beating us in practice. (What is wrong with this picture?) Anyway, we knew we had a hard road to climb being in the company of Maryland. But Hey! They already told us all their secrets, right? Anyway, it didn’t work out for us ... but Team Texas came out the winners in their room. The judges wanted to know how a team that had used almost all of the original points they were given in round one, could come back so strong the next day. They proudly told of their experience with Team Illinois. The judges thanked us and said it made them feel good that we would help a team like that. But let’s face it, many times those East Coast teams knock our socks off. This is in part because they regularly play in multi-state tournaments. So for us Team Texas was a home team ... you know ... from the midwest. Although we had lost out in a hard fight to the end, the team was up bright and early to cheer on Texas in the semi-finals, all the time giving Team Texas last minute pointers. All of our cheering paid off! They won! On to the finals, where Texas came out 6th in the tournament. A little piece of Illinois was in Texas that night.
Now that you have some background on how Team Illinois did, let’s meet the team:
David Barnes is a graduate of the Latin School of Chicago. David’s mother is a homemaker and his father is an attorney. David played for Latin’s Scholastic Bowl team for 4 years, some of which was for Rob Grierson, coach of Team Illinois. When I asked David what he would tell other high school students he said, “If you get a chance to be on the Panasonic team go and do well.” David also enjoys tennis and singing when he is not competing in Scholastic Bowl. When I asked David what his strategy for learning material for competition is he shrugged his shoulders and chuckled to say, “I sponge it in I guess.” I then replied I wish it were that easy for me. David has just a few accomplishments under his belt over the years. He was a member of the IHSA state championship team his junior year, 3rd place finisher his sophomore year, and made it to the top 8 his freshman and senior years. He also placed 6th in the Ultimate Scholars Competition. David will be attending Yale University in the fall majoring in electrical engineering. He plans on participating on the academic team there. Good luck, David!
Martin Urban is a graduate of Moline High School. Martin’s mother and father are engineers. Martin has blessed Nick Pitz and the Moline team for three years. Martin has an ability to do math like few I have ever seen before. Martin plans to attend the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana majoring in computer engineering. Martin has been very active at Moline. He was involved in the Math team, National Honor Society, and German Club. His senior year he helped Moline to take home the Masonic State Championship Title. His junior year he helped his team to capture the Consolation championships at the Masonic Series. Martin’s advice for future Panasonic team members, “Have confidence in yourself. Confer on bonus questions. And make sure they hear you!” For those who don’t know Martin, he is sometimes timid in his answer, only to find out he was correct. Martin is considering joining the academic team at the U of I. Good luck, Martin!
Tim Holbrook is a graduate of University High in Normal. Tim was coached by his father for four years and was accompanied on the Florida trip by his parents. Tim’s mother teaches at ISU. Tim has participated in Scholastic Bowl all four years in high school and directed a Frosh/Soph tournament at U-High. Tim has been busy throughout his high school career being active in drama, band, and choir, President of the National Honor Society, dance company and in his free time, tutoring fellow students. Tim’s team was the class A state champions this year in the IHSA series. Tim also took 2nd place in the WYSE competition this year. Tim will be attending Illinois State University this fall and although they do not have an academic team, I don’t imagine Tim will give up this part of his life. Tim is contemplating writing questions. I am sure we will hear from Tim for years to come. Good luck, Tim!
David Shalowitz is a graduate of New Trier High School. David’s mother is a pediatrician and his father is a physician. David will be attending Brown University after a trip to Argentina this summer. He is unsure of his major at this time. David enjoys soccer, judo, and the math team. David’s team placed 3rd in the AA state competition in the IHSA series and advanced to the top 8 his sophomore and junior years. He placed 2nd in the Masonic State Competition his senior year and 2nd consolation his sophomore year. This was David’s second year on Team Illinois. David’s advice to predict where the question is going. Above all, do not take yourself or the game too seriously. The goal of Scholastic Bowl is knowledge not necessarily winning. Good luck, David!
Peter McFerrin is a graduate of the Illinois Math and Science Academy. Peter’s mother is a high school music teacher and his father is Vice President of First Midwest Trust Company. This fall Peter will be attending Cornell University studying Mechanical Engineering. Peter has participated on the IMSA team for three years and on the Channohon team for three years. For the last three years Peter’s team has captured the class AA State championship in the IHSA series. This year his team finished Consolation Champions in the Masonic State Competition. Peter finished 2nd in the Ultimate Scholar competition behind fellow teammate Ben Ricca. Peter would like to give some advice to high school students; “Read until your eyes fall out! Newspapers, books, watch educational TV, current events, fill your head with knowledge.” Peter also said if you do not have natural speed then do speed drills to improve your reaction time. Great advice Peter! Good luck, Peter!
Last but certainly not least is Ben Ricca. I would like to say Ben is a graduate of somewhere, but I have to hold off another year. We love you Ben but many coaches are counting down and celebrating the day of Streator High Graduation. Ben has been a member of Team Illinois for two years. Ben’s mother likes to say she is an advocate for her children. All the while coaching the local junior high team. Ben’s father is a family physician in Streator. So remember players if you are trying to beat Ben to the buzzer this year and suffer any broken thumbs or pulled muscles, ask Ben to point you to his father, who rarely misses a competition. Ben has no idea of his future plans. He enjoys playing football, playing the piano and tuba. Ben has led Streator to many victories through his three years in high school. Ben has been on the Junior high state championship team, the 4th place finishing team his sophomore and junior years in the IHSA class AA competition, 3rd place Masonic finishers his freshman and sophomore years and alone he won the Ultimate Scholar as a junior. Ben’s advice to other players is to read a lot of questions to find out what kind of stuff they are asking. He says to memorize as much as you can. Ben said if he makes it to Team Illinois 2000, he is up for the challenge. Ben also notes that he much prefers the Illinois style where he can attempt all the time and not be penalized for incorrect answers. Of course Ben would not give up all his secrets until after he graduates. We will be waiting Ben! Good luck, Ben!
Now you have met Team Illinois. But wait, I can’t forget to introduce us ... the coaches. Rob Grierson is a Macintosh Computer Consultant, working with Lapin Systems in Evanston. Before leaving education he was a math teacher, Computer Coordinator, and Scholastic Bowl coach at the Latin School of Chicago, where the Scholastic Bowl team won the IHSA State Championship in 1994 .
Debbie Martin is embarking on her sixth year of coaching at PORTA High in Petersburg. Debbie is the mother of one and the computer lab and resource director at PORTA High. As a coach from a small school and having graduated from an even smaller school I know financially we could not take our teams to a national tournament like the Panasonic Academic Challenge. I strongly encourage you to nominate your best student each and every year for Team Illinois. It is a great opportunity for the Scholastic Bowl members from throughout Illinois.
1999 Panasonic Academic Challenge
1998 PAC
2000 PAC