Promising season for Wyoming Academic Challenge

Erin Mullins

Wyoming Academic Challenge (WAC), a statewide knowledge competition between opposing high school teams, has already started their season in earnest.
The club members competed at the first meet of the season at Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne November 4 and went to their second meet at Thermopolis Middle School December 2.
For a small school, the Lovell High School team represents very well, WAC advisor Bret George said.
But it is a challenge to compete against large schools with 1,000 or more students, George said, considering Lovell High School has 238 students. The small school’s division is limited to schools with 200 students or less, so Lovell is competing with every other larger school in the state.
Two years ago, Lovell won the state championship, he said. The next season, the team placed third at the state competition, he said. However, the team was unable to play the championship round that usually determines the 1-3 placing due to inclement weather cancelling the final competition.
“The coaches all agreed, to just pack it up and go home with the high points from those round robins. We didn’t get to go to that championship round. And we beat the team that did win it. We beat them head-to-head every single meet,” he said.
George did not consider the result unfair; rather, he said that is just the way the cookie crumbles.
This season, George said the team is progressing but still has room to improve. At the first meet, the team was a bit short staffed and did really well, placing fifth, George said.
At the latest meet this past weekend, junior Taggart Shumway showed strong improvement from the last season, George said. He was the team leader for group one and George was very impressed with his knowledge.
Again, some of the top players were missing the past weekend due to conflicts like Winter Formal, George said. But that was a good opportunity for some younger players to get valuable competition time, he said.
The kids who do WAC are very involved, so they often have conflicts, he said. For the most important meets this season, the top players have committed to be there.
Each WAC round consists of a team of four with one alternate.  There are multiple rounds per meet. Typically, Lovell takes two five-player teams to each meet. Each round consists of three teams competing against each other.
The questions cover a broad range of topics in categories like current events, literature, science, history and math. George said it is hard to give the kids a series of exact subjects to study because the questions cover such an incredibly broad swath of knowledge.
“I do have the opportunity for kids to look at current events, to try and keep up on current events,” he said. “But it seems like there’s generally one player that is better than another at current events. So, I’m always looking at this five-member team. How am I going to make the best…like I’m really, really, really looking for a literature person right now.”
George is actively recruiting for a student with strong knowledge of literature including authors, books, poetry and quotes to join the Lovell team. He said that subject is currently where the team is most lacking.
The next WAC meet is on January 6 at Northwest College in Powell followed by a meet on January 20 at Cheyenne East. To prepare, George says the team practices every Tuesday lunch in his classroom reading questions and going over strategies.