The weekend of May 11 marked two large successes for Northwest Junior High. While the Vikings’ MATHCOUNTS team was competing at the national tournament in sunny Orlando, their speech and debate team was busy winning multiple state titles in Des Moines.
“The [math] competition takes one morning and afternoon…the rest [of the weekend] we got to tour Disney World,” said MATHCOUNTS coach and Northwest teacher Mark Norton.
Norton explained that a total of 224 students competed at the national tournament, including the top four ranked students from each of the 50 US states.
Iowa participants in the math competition included Vikings Elizabeth Han, Jiahua Zhang and Jun-Hee Lee as well as a student from Waukee Middle School. Han won the state competition two years in a row.
“[In the] last ten years, no one has [won twice in a row],” Norton said. “They’re obviously very, very talented…and they all practiced very hard.”
Several of the Northwest students have been with MATHCOUNTS for years, including two three-year members who started in sixth grade rather than wait until seventh. In fact, Lee was one of only ten qualifying sixth graders at the 2012 national competition.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, May 12 two buses of speech and debate participants drove away, heading to the junior high state tournament held at Dowling Catholic High School.
Speech events included impromptu speaking and duo interpretation, as well as many others. Noah Tiegs and Jacob Barber placed first and third in impromptu speaking, respectively, while partners Jena Brooks and Victoria Cicha received second place in duo interpretation.
“I was so proud of our group,” said Northwest teacher and speech coach Andrea Keech.
The debate team met with success as well. Five out of the eight pairs of debaters who advanced to quarterfinals were from Northwest.
Kai Trepka and Richie Zhang went undefeated throughout the tournament, finishing with a perfect record of 7-0 as state champions in debate.
“I learned that having West High students as kind of mentors really helps you go a long way; while other teams had one or two coaches, we had over ten. But most of the work should still be done without their help,” Trepka said.
Keech stressed the benefits speech and debate provide.
“[Speech and debate students are] very supportive of each other…they’re open to trying new things, they’re reliable…and very motivated. This wouldn’t happen without a high degree of motivation,” Keech said. “[Speech and debate] might not be for you, but it might be the best thing ever. Just try.”