LHS wiz kids place fourth in state contest

Patti Carpenter

Allen named Wyoming State All-Star

The Wyoming Academic Challenge attracts some of the best and brightest students from across the state for its annual competition, and the competition held in Riverton March 16 was no exception. Though a much smaller school than many of its opponents, the students representing Lovell High School held their own, placing fourth overall in the competition against 15 other schools.
According to coach Bret George, the rules allowed for the school to send one small team to the event. In keeping with that rule, he selected the top four students from the school’s 13-member team, plus two alternates, to compete at the high-level academic competition. The contest requires students to demonstrate their knowledge of math, geography, current events, literature and more, in a quiz show type format against the top high school academic scholars in Wyoming. According to George, all of the students attending, including the alternates, had the opportunity to compete in at least one round.
George explained that the contest is similar to the popular television show “Jeopardy,” but with teams rather than individuals competing. A question that none of the competitors know before hand is read. The first team “buzzing in” gets to attempt to answer it. If the team that buzzed in first doesn’t answer the question correctly, the next team that buzzed in gets an opportunity to answer. Through a process of elimination, the teams are whittled down to the top two teams, until one team fails to answer a question correctly.
Following several hard-fought rounds, the Lovell team ended up with 970 points to East Cheyenne’s winning 1220, which edged the LHS team out of contention for the state championship. The overall contest lasted six intense hours, with the Lovell team placing a respectable fourth place at day’s end against three of the biggest schools in the state (Cheyenne East, Thunder Basin and Cheyenne Central).
“These kids are the cream-of-the-crop,” said George. “These guys are going to be successful in whatever they want to do in life. Every one of these kids is a well-rounded, academically smart, common sense, very trustworthy, good kid. I would take any one of these kids on any trip with me, any time. They’re that good of kids and not just academically.”
George said all of the team members will return again next year, with the exception of Prosser, who graduates. He said the team is already strategizing about how to shore up its weaknesses for next year’s competition.
The team’s captain, Jarrett Allen, received individual honors at the event as one of six Wyoming State 2024 All-Stars. Allen was selected by coaches from opposing teams for his exemplary performance in the competition. George said he’s looking forward to Allen returning next year.
This is George’s second year of coaching the team. He said he looks forward to “new minds” joining the group in the next school year. He added that he wasn’t surprised that the team did so well this year, having won the competition two years ago.
“LHS has a strong academic student body,” he said. “For me, the best way I can help these very smart kids is not through knowledge because they have that already. The best way I can help them is with stratagem and how not to give up points. These are the kind of kids that retain everything they hear. They listen to me and are very attentive. In some ways, it is daunting to work with kids of this high caliber.”
In preparation, the team practices every Tuesday during the school year, reinforcing their knowledge using questions from previous events. George said any student interested in joining the group is welcome to attend.
“These kids learn so much from this,” he said. “They literally absorb everything they hear. They are good at everything they do in life: good at academics, good at sports and, in general, just good human beings who will go far in life.”