Twelve Hickman High School students will compete against schools from across the country in the 25th Annual National Academic Championship. The dozen Kewpies, nine of whom recently graduated, will leave early Thursday for the four-day competition in Orlando, Fla.
The team will represent the state of Missouri in the tournament. To qualify for the championship, the Hickman team earned the highest score in the Knowledge Master Open, a biannual, multiple-choice exam that pits schools throughout each state against each other in a broad range of academic fields.
Despite the upcoming pressure, Hickman graduate and team member Michael Pridal-LoPiccolo is more excited than nervous.
“You either know it, or you don’t,” he said.
The National Academic Championship follows a “quiz bowl” format, where teams face off in person as opposed to the computer-graded KMO that occurred in late April. Each team is guaranteed six matches, and each match consists of four rounds in which teams answer questions of varying point levels and academic materials. The teams that survive the opening day’s competition with a record of 4-2 or better will move on to the higher rounds.
The Hickman KMO team originally consisted of 24 members but had to be narrowed down to 12 for the championship. Formed early in the school year, the team met weekly for practice sessions. According to Darci Humphrey, the team’s sponsor and Hickman’s Talented and Gifted coordinator, they became a cohesive unit during the course of the year, well aware of each others’ strengths and weaknesses in the realm of academia.
“There are different interests and lives on the team, and to see them come together is inspiring,” Humphrey said. “Everyone’s excited to see how we stack up against the nation.”
Humphrey and Hickman’s former KMO coach, Diana Rahm, will travel with the team, whose travel is mostly funded by the Columbia School District. Hickman Principal Michael Jeffers is excited for his Florida-bound students.
“It gives an outlet for our students who thrive in academics,” he said.
Jeffers added that this year’s KMO squad is a prime example of the success Hickman has had all year in academic competition.
Competition will begin Friday and run until the finals on Sunday.