You might call it a calculated win: At a math competition on Saturday, a team of Columbia middle school students bested every other team in the state.
Students from the West Junior High School Mathcounts team beat out 30 other middle school teams, winning the state championship in Rolla.
The members of the winning team were Daniel Ni, who finished fourth overall out of 218 students; Adrian Mitrea, who finished ninth; Jun Liang, who finished in 10th place; and Boiar Qi, who finished 20th. Two other West Junior High students took part in the competition but were not part of the team: Winnie Feng, who finished 15th; and David Ma, who finished 27th.
Daniel, Adrian and Boiar were part of a Smithton Middle School team that won the competition last year. Sixth- and seventh-graders attend Smithton, while eighth- and ninth-graders attend West Junior High.
West’s victory was impressive said Joseph Stolle, coordinator of the central region of the state competition.
“As with any competition, in order to be successful there has to be a combination of talent and hard work,” Stolle said. “The schools that do well at the competition draw from a very intelligent group of young students and combine that with months of preparation.”
Along with meeting for practice three times a week, members of the team spent time practicing on their own, said Adrian. “There is no real weak link on the team,” he said. “All of us do well, and our average is very high as a result.”
The competition took place in two individual rounds and a team round. In the first round, participants were given 40 minutes to answer 30 problems. In the second round, students were given four sets of two problems that were more complex with six minutes to solve each set. In the team round, each four-person team had 20 minutes to solve 10 problems. The team rankings took into account all three rounds.
Solving so many problems in a limited amount of time is daunting, said Dorina Mitrea, who is Adrian’s mother and who coached the Smithton students last year.
“The competition is very intense and very hard,” she said. “It’s amazing to see how well they do. It was great to see so many kids from Columbia do so well.”
Two Columbia middle schools finished in the top five teams at the state championship. Along with West’s first-place finish, Gentry Middle School placed fifth.
Because of his fourth-place finish, Daniel will be part of the Missouri team that will compete at the Mathcounts National Competition on May 7 in Washington, D.C.
The Missouri team, coached by Dorina Mitrea, finished second in last year’s nationals.
Daniel also received a renewable $1,500 engineering scholarship from the University of Missouri-Rolla, though he said he isn’t likely to use it. “That seems pretty cool, but I don’t want to be an engineer,” he said.