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Atkins Wins District Championship in Academic Competition

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Atkins 79 By Kim Underwood

Winston-Salem/Foprsyth County Schools

FEBRUARY 7, 2019 – On Wednesday night, Atkins Academic & Technical High School and Mount Tabor High School competed for the District Championship of the school system’s Academic Competition.

Atkins won. The final score was 192 to 142.

It was the fifth year in a row that Atkins won the District Championship.

“We are so proud of our students,” said Joey Stone, the coach for Atkins’ Science Team. “They work hard and they are extremely dedicated.”

Atkins principal Joe Childers said, “I am really proud of these guys. They worked really hard this year.”

Although Mount Tabor students were disappointed that they didn’t win, they were proud of their teammates and had high praise for Atkins.

“I’m happy we made it this far,” said Lisa Tripathy, a senior. “I’m very proud of what Tabor has accomplished. We have an incredible team and Atkins has an incredible team.

Atkins 86 The championship match was the culmination of a season that began in November. During the weeks that followed, teams representing 10 Winston-Salem/Forsyth County high schools competed in six matches during the regular season.

Each match included rounds in five categories: English, Math, Science, Social Studies, and General Knowledge. The team that correctly answered each toss-up question received 5 points and was the first to answer directed questions in that category that were worth a total of 12 points. Then the other team had the chance to answer directed questions.

Cheryl Wright, the 21st Century/Academic Competition Coordinator for the school system, was impressed by the students throughout the season.

“I am amazed by the questions asked and the swiftness for which students are able to problem solve or recall knowledge,” Wright said.

“To say that I am happy with the success of all participants is an understatement.  I was and am proud knowing that what I see of student’s involvement in the competition is a mirror to the strength of knowledge our future possesses.”

“I would be remiss if I did not give thanks to all staff involved in supporting the teams each season.  Their hard work, extra time, and efforts are to be commended.”

Win 73 “Great job by all!”

The playoffs followed the regular season. At the championship match held at the school system’s Education Building, many parents and other family members were present, with the Atkins supporters naturally gravitating to one side of the auditorium and the Mount Tabor supporters to the other. Ed Weiss, the principal of Mount Tabor, was among those cheering on the team.

While each side clapped and cheered the loudest when their team did well with answers, they would also clap for the other team from time to time. And everyone would laugh together. Because there was no penalty for giving the wrong answer to a question, competitors would sometimes offer amusing guesses when they didn’t know the true answer.

And, by the end of the night, it was clear that an incredibly long-lived person by the name of “Smith”  made important contributions throughout history in English, math, science and social studies.

Win 36 The championship match lasted about 2 hours.


As everyone gathered in the auditorium before the match, students from both schools talked about why they participate and what they get out of the experience.

“I love social studies and I’m also competitive,” said Atkins junior Jackie Nikas, who competes on the Social Studies team.  

Plus, she thoroughly enjoys her teammates.

“We are such good friends,” Nikas said.

Asked whether she had ever missed a question she felt afterward she should have gotten right, she said that, indeed, she had just a couple of nights earlier when the correct answer to a question would have been the name of a Alice Paul, a woman who had worked to get the right to vote for women.

Win 30 Paul is a hero of hers, Nikas said. “I saw her whole life flash before my eyes.”  

Sure that Nikas would know the name, everyone else on the team turned to her. But, although she knew all about the woman, her name did not come to mind until it was too late.

The Atkins team includes a number of seniors. One of them is Sean Garber, who has been on the team since he was a freshman. He serves as the captain for the English team.

He finds much to enjoy in participating on the team, he said. “Predominately, I think it’s fun.

“It’s very fast-paced. It’s good collaborating – interacting – with the team.”

For him, the misstep that came to mind was connected to Willy Loman. Garber should have identified Willy Loman as a character in the play Death of a Salesman. Unfortunately,A Raisin in the Sun was what came out of his mouth.

Win 32 Senior Stephen Leverton has also been a member of the Atkins team all four years.

“I like the people who are on it,” he said.

Plus, the competitions provide the bonus of giving him the opportunity to see friends from other schools.

Leverton is interested in history and political science – he can imagine going into politics one day – so the social studies team is a natural fit for him.

Leverton’s parents were among the family members on hand. His mother, Taryn Leverton, said that she likes the Academic Competition program.

“I think it’s great for them to study and use their knowledge in a competitive but fun environment.”

Sitting there in the audience at matches, she said, she often doesn’t know the answer.

“I hear these questions, and I go, ‘I have no idea,’” she said.  

This was the first year that Atkins junior Yinka Mason has participated. She decided to join after friends told her how much fun it was.

And it has been fun. She was happy to find that, although team members play to win, the atmosphere is not as competitive as she worried that it might be.

Wins 37 “It’s more laidback than I thought it would be,” she said.  

Nick Arzillo is the head coach for the Atkins team. When he agreed to take on the responsibility, he said, he knew it would be a lot of work but he also know it would be worth it.

“The students of Atkins love to push themselves academically,” Arzillo said. “Academic team is a way for them to go farther…The kids really get a kick out of it.”   

On the other side of the auditorium, students from Mount Tabor and their families were gathering.

Will Armentrout is a Mount Tabor junior who has been competing all three years.

“It’s fun,” he said.

In addition to enjoying the other members of the team, he likes getting to use the bits of knowledge that he picks up here and there.

Win 39 One day he would like to become an engineer.

Freshman Christina Wooten joined the team after she happened to hear some members of the English team during a practice session. Something came up that the team members didn’t know.

“I did,” she said.

So she thought perhaps she could contribute.

“I have had a lot of fun,” she said. “I like that I have a team to work with, and I have met a lot of new people.”

Plus, she’s a competitive person.

Junior Katy Lorentz has enjoyed getting to know more people than she would otherwise.

“It’s fun getting to know people I don’t have classes with,” she said.

Cacie Cummings is a senior at Mount Tabor. This is her third year on the team.

“I think it’s a fun thing to do,” she said.

Win 56 The first year she competed, she was on the English team. Her interest in science has grown, and she now competes on the science team. One day, Cummings plans to teach science at the high school level.

Cummings’ mother Cristi Cummings likes what participating on the Mount Tabor team has done for her daughter. It has made her more confident, and it has given her the chance to meet students in other grades that she might not have gotten to know otherwise.

“It’s a good learning tool as well,” she said. “I think it’s good all the way around.”

This year, the Mount Tabor Science Team scored more points that other science teams in every match. That was quite satisfying, Cummings said, and she was looking forward to the special recognition the science team would receive before the championship match.

Deputy Superintendent Kenneth Simington and Instructional Superintendent Sam Mills gave plaques to teams in all categories that did the best during the regular season. They also recognized the Regular Season Champion. This year, that required two trophies. Both Atkins and West Forsyth were undefeated during the regular season.

When it was time for the championship match to begin, Superintendent Beverly Emory stepped up and welcomed everyone and wished them the best.

Win 34 Wright then went over the rules and introduced such people as Instructional Superintendent Lionel Kato who would be reading the questions.

The members of the English teams came up and introduced themselves.

The first toss-up question was who wrote The Remains of the Day?

And they were off.

Before the night was done, students had solved complex math problems, identified the people holding North Carolina state offices, identified earwigs as insects, named presidents whose last name ended in “r” and come up with five-letter words with “x” in the middle such as “pixie.”    

The team coaches for Atkins are:

English: Caitlin Cukiernik

Math: Monika Vasili

Win 90 Science: Joey Stone

Social Studies: Nick Arzillo

General Knowledge: Stephan Duga

Matt Starkey is the head coach for the Mount Tabor team. The Mount Tabor team coaches are:

English: Gerianne Bartlett

Math: William Joyner

Science: Matt Starkey

Social Studies: Conan Arthur

The content winners for the 2018-19 season were:

Overall:  Atkins and West Forsyth tied

English: Atkins

Math: Reagan

Science: Mount Tabor

Social Studies: West Forsyth

General Knowledge: Atkins

Atkins and West Forsyth both all six matches during the regular season.

Both Reagan and Mount Tabor had a 5-1 record.

East Forsyth and Reynolds both had a 3-3 record.

The other teams competing in the Academic Competition were North Forsyth, Carver, Glenn, and Parkland





Kim Underwood