Deep within the halls of McNicholas High School, amidst a flurry of extracurriculars and routine sports practices, there exists a team unlike any other. They power through matches not by kicking miracle field goals or making baskets from half-court, but by relying on pure, unmatched brain power. We’re not taking about the playoff-winning football team, the champion swimmers, or even the wrestling squad.
We’re talking about Academic Team.
Affectionately referred to as “The A-Team” by many of its members, the McNicholas High School Academic Team is one to be reckoned with, boasting a winning record in the aftermath of last year’s season. Though the overall team is split into three leagues, students from all grade levels are accepted, creating a family-like atmosphere where inside jokes and camaraderie abound.
“We’re pretty close, especially in each team level,” senior Grace Hiltz said. Hiltz, a member of the varsity division, has been on the team since her freshman year. “Most of the varsity team has been together for three or four years, so we all know each other pretty well.”
Even though most have heard the term ‘academic team’ tossed around in school announcements and hallway conversations, few actually know what being a member of the group entails. Is it just like a game of Jeopardy? Are there yellow and red cards given out like in a soccer game? Does they have a coach?
Here’s how it works: Every Tuesday during the regular season, the members of the team, along with coaches Michelle Semancik and Julie Muething, meet downtown at Cincinnati State to compete against other Catholic schools in the league – the same schools that McNick faces in regular-season sports like football and soccer. But unlike traditional sports, where players have rehearsed exactly what they plan to do in the game, members of Academic Team often have to put their faith in what knowledge they’ve accumulated throughout their time in and out of the classroom.
In the main portion of an Academic Team match, questions are split up into different categories, ranging from world literature to physical science, American history to mathematics. Each team, composed of four active members at a time, is given ten seconds to answer a question asked by the moderator, who is often a professor at Cincinnati State. The final ‘lightning’ round is a free-for-all, testing individuals’ abilities to think quickly within the three-second time limit.
“Academic Team has definitely helped my recall skills to become faster and more efficient,” Hiltz said. “Learning small facts, like those in questions asked often helps connect the dots on overall topics in my classes at school.”