Central High School academic team gearing up for big competitions

Thursday, April 15, 2010
Clockwise from top left, Josh Wen, Kelsey Martin, Matthew Pirtle, and Owen Hill are four of the eight members of Central Intelligence Agency, Cape Girardeau Central High School's academic team. (Laura Simon)

For Cape Girardeau Central High School's academic team, internal competition is the key to their success.

"I think it's better for the team," said team captain Josh Wen, even though he is often the target for his other teammates.

"He's the best," junior Owen Hill said. "So if you beat him, you get to brag."

The team is prepping for district competition at North County High School in Bonne Terre, Mo. The group will compete against teams from Jackson and Poplar Bluff, Mo., among others. Notre Dame Regional High School, Perryville High School, Saxony Lutheran High School and Bell City High School are also slated to compete in district contests.

Central's team, known as the Central Intelligence Agency, is also fresh off a win that qualified it for a national competition in Chicago.

At Wen's suggestion, the group went to a Columbia, Mo., competition that is separate from Missouri State High School Activities Association play. It includes different rules and a different playing format. After a successful showing, the team now advances to compete against schools from across the country at the National Academic Quiz Tournaments contest in May.

Before heading to Chicago, the group is focusing on its Missouri matchups. Heading into district competition the eight-person roster includes Wen, Hill, Matthew Pirtle, Kelsey Martin, Joshua Sander, Gavin Pringle, Prithvi Rudrappa and Adam Legrand. More than 15 students vie for spots on the team, said coach Dr. Al Nicolai.

The team's record of 27-4 won't give it an advantage in the double-elimination tournament.

"The record's just for shock value," said Wen, a senior.

The group practices twice a week, a routine that helps team members learn one another's areas of expertise.

"Everybody has their own little specialty," team coach Dr. Al Nicolai said.

Wen said preparation is done on an individual basis. He learned the capitals of all countries after seeing the team's weakness with African geography. Pirtle said he studies political figures and mythology. Hill, who Nicolai deems the expert in cultural geography, takes the questions on international sports. Hill said math is also his strong point. Martin focuses on the U.S. Constitution and the Bible.

abusch@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

1000 S. Silver Springs Road Cape Girardeau, MO

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