The four-member Randolph Middle School MATHCOUNTS team became state champs last month, but the win came as a surprise.
“I said, ‘Wait a second, what?’” coach Michael Pillsbury recalled.
The team discovered they won when they saw the accidental flash of a screen that named them the winners. More than 30 N.C. teams competed, Pillsbury said.
“I was still unsure,” said eighth-grader Lloyd Liu, after seeing the screen. “There were two really good teams from the Raleigh region.”
His teammate, sixth-grader Nicholas Miklaucic, agreed.
“We thought we were up there, but didn’t think we were in contention for the state championship,” Nicholas said.
But win they did.
In the final third round, the team correctly answered 9 of 10 questions to clinch the victory. The other two rounds had been on an individual level, and before entering the third round, the team was in third place.
“They catapulted from third to first because of teamwork, and that makes me proud,” Pillsbury said.
The team, also including seventh-graders Zack Lee and Sahil Patel, said they practice a lot, but their main strategy is to relax before going into a competition.
“I think cramming doesn’t help at all,” Lloyd said. “It’s not too beneficial, and it puts on the stress.”
For the team round, the team splits into pairs to tackle the odd- and even-numbered problems. One person starts with the easiest problems – which start with 1 or 2 – while the other starts at the end with 9 or 10.
Lloyd advises getting the easier questions out of the way first so the team has more time at the end for the tougher questions.
But the team’s main weapon is their brains.
Pillsbury said Lloyd and Zack have both made perfect scores on the math portion of the SAT. Lloyd was the top state champion on the individual level last year, and he was third this year. Zack was fourth last year and finished sixth this year.
All four are members of Randolph’s National Academic League, which might win the national championship this spring.
Sahil, Lloyd and Nicholas all play chess competitively, and Zack likes golf. Soccer is the sport for Sahil and Lloyd, and Nicholas enjoys playing the piano and cello.
For the national MATHCOUNTS competition in Washington, D.C., students with the top individual scores from the state championship compete.
That means Lloyd will help represent North Carolina for the second time May 9-12, and he’s looking forward to it.
“Hopefully I’ll have a shot at getting top 12,” he said.
Pillsbury will be the N.C. team’s coach.
But for now, the four are basking in the glory of being state champions, proudly displaying their towering black stone-and-glass trophy in the front office.
“It just feels, like, good,” Sahil said. “Next year, I think we’re going to do pretty good too. I have confidence in our team.”
Ruebens: 704-358-5294; on Twitter: @YoungAchCLT
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