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Do you know, to the nearest integer, what is the base 6 log of 8,000, given that 6 cubed is 216?
Josh Levinson does. He's a member of the Forest ACE team and his knowing the answer (it's 5) helped his squad.
Welcome to the world of ACE (Academic Competition for Excellence), a world of tough questions and fast timers. It is a world where a high intellect will get you in the door, but you'd best be quick on your feet if you want to take the prize.
Jefferson Forest High School was the recent host to an ACE competition, which featured powerhouses Brookville, Forest and Heritage, in addition to Amherst, Liberty and Rustburg (Staunton River is the only Seminole District school that does not have an ACE team).
ACE is also known as "Quiz Bowl," and falls under the jurisdiction of VHSL just like other sports, according to JF head coach Jane Frisa. "That means the same rules for qualification, district, regional and state tournaments, varsity letters, etc," she stated. However, it's doubtful the coach has to worry much about her charges' grades.
At any given time in JFHS's new math wing, multiple classrooms were packed with intellectual power as the students grappled in answering questions across a varied spectrum: science, math, history and culture questions rained down from the moderators. Answers, both correct and not, sizzled back.
"It is fun to be around students who love learning and have such highly developed intellectual curiosity," stated Frisa, who is in her sixth year leading the program.
Teams of four players from each school sat in a row facing the opposing foursome. When Forest faced Brookville, Eli Knox, Joseph Sankoorikal, Levinson and Matt Aadland represented the Cavs.
"In the equation X square + Y square = 25, there are how many points with integer coordinates, keeping in mind that some of these coordinates can be part of a Pythagorean triple?"
After the question is read by the moderator, contestants have 10 seconds to answer correctly. The only tools at their disposal are a pencil, a piece of paper and their brains.
Sankoorikal, who is also a standout on the Forest track team, hits his hand-held button, which triggers a signal light on his desk. The timekeeper acknowledges Sanoorikal's desire to answer. The young man answers "12." The moderator says "correct," as Sankoorikal has deftly dealt with the pesky Pythagorean triple issue. At least one man watching these proceedings shakes his head in befuddlement.
Ruth Stutzman is one of the coaches for the Forest team and, along with Frisa, is charged with helping to mold the 14 members of the squad into a cohesive unit. "This is an exciting competition," she said. "It provides the opportunity to match wits with other high school kids."
There is certainly a degree of pride involved (a JF ACE team slogan is "Nerds are hot") in this competitive affair. As with any JF activity, Brookville (who beat the Cavs 200-190) brings a great rivalry to the fore.
After Knox nails a question by answering "The Marriage of Figaro," he allows himself a small smile at Brookville's expense. Aadland looks relieved after his correct identification of the only nation in South America that has English as its principal language (Guyana).
"There's a joy that comes with a right answer," says Stutzman. "It's like making a shot in basketball."
"Starting with the 2008-09 season, on an NCAA basketball court, what will be the distance, within 6 inches, of the distance from the basket to the three point line?" (Answer: 20' 9")
Just as anyone who wants to excel in basketball needs to practice, so goes the ACE team. The squad gets together every Wednesday to drill under the watchful eyes of Stutzman and head coach Jane Frisa. "We break out the buzzers and throw questions at them," explained Stutzman.
The team ranges from freshmen to seniors and turns away nobody who is interested in joining. The season consists of five regular season matches, followed by the district championship (Jan. 19 at Amherst) and regional championship (Feb. 2 at Heritage).
The state championship is set for Feb. 23, at William and Mary.
As with any activity, parental support is instrumental. Stutzman said, "The parents are wonderful. They bring refreshments and many watch the matches."
Brookville mom Gail Everett seemed pleased that her son, Brandon, is on the Bee team. "It's great academically and socially," she said, adding with a chuckle, "There are no injuries in ACE."
Perhaps there are no physical injuries, but the mental gyrations can be painful.
Quickly now: What is the first double-digit number in the Fibonacci sequence? You have 10 seconds.