Everyone in Bulloch County remembers the great snow storm on Feb. 12. What most people don't know is that weekend also was when Georgia Southern University was scheduled to host its annual Regional Math Tournament, which is the biggest competition of its type in the area.
Event director Dr. Susie Lanier, assistant professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences, immediately informed all of the middle and high school math team coaches that instead of rescheduling the event at GSU students would take a written test at their schools.
On March 9 students at schools throughout the region took the test, and ever since then they and their coaches anxiously awaited the scores. Well, the results are in, and Bulloch County's schools scored better than any other schools in the region.
For starters, Southeast Bulloch Middle School “put a hurting on all those other schools out there,” to quote a proud SEBMS Principal Donna Clifton.
In Division II Middle Schools (with 8 schools, 25 teams, and 93 individuals competing), their teams took first and second place, beating out perennial winner Savannah Country Day.
Statesboro High School's math teams also performed at the highest level. In Division I Junior Varsity (with 6 schools, 11 teams, and 34 individuals competing), their team took second place, and SHS student Sealah Lee took first place in the “Individual” category.
In Varsity Division I (with 6 schools, 9 teams, and 33 individuals competing), the Statesboro High team took first place, with SHS student Derek Lee tied with Justin Lin of Jenkins High School for first place in the “Individual” category, with each having a score of 175.
SEB Middle students also swept the top two spots in “Individual” results as Daley Stepanek and Cameron Kahley took first and second respectively.
Stepanek said, “I was pretty positive I had done OK,” while Kahley said, “I thought I had done pretty good.”
As their coach Brad Thornton said, “What makes these results really sweet is that last year the Savannah Country Day team took first and second and our team took third.”
On top of that, he said, “Our first place team beat Savannah Country Day's team by 121 points.”
Moving on to the high school results, in the Division II Junior Varsity, the SEB teams took first and third places (with 8 schools, 16 teams, and 56 individuals competing). SEB Math Team Coach and Math teacher Susan Boddiford said of her students “They put so much effort into preparing for this competition, and then to have it canceled, well, that was a major disappointment.”
She added, “When they learned of the written test, they all got excited again. Since they took it, they have been driving me crazy asking me how they did. In fact, some of them didn't know how well they had done until they came to class this morning.”
SEB students Joseph Strickland and Emiry Blitch took first and second places respectively in their “Individual” category. Asked about how they felt now that the scores were in, Strickland said “We came in first last year, and were hoping we could pull it off again.” Blitch added that “I can't believe that I did this well.”
In Division II Varsity (with 9 schools, 17 teams, and 65 individuals competing), SEB's team took first place, and SEB student Roger Allen Jr. took first place in the “Individual” category. Allen commented that “For the last two weeks I've been going over the test in my mind, and I just wasn't sure how well I had done.”
The SEB team said they dedicate their wins to Ms. Iris Meek. Meek was a strong supporter of the team for the past eight years. She died earlier this year from cancer.
At Statesboro High, the individual winners were equally excited.
When asked about their performance, the two Lees (who are not related) were both very pleased. Each of them commented on how their major difficulty with the test had been in understanding some of the terminology, as English was not the language they grew up with.
Here there was a curious coincidence. Sealah Lee had joined the Math team just before this competition and didn't even know Derek Lee. While being interviewed, they learned that they each have older siblings (Dong Hoon Lee and June Sub Lee) who are both enrolled as freshmen at GSU.
SHS coach and math teacher Jake Collins said he was very proud of all the work his math teams had put in to prepare for this competition. Of his top two finishers, he said having taught them he felt “that they deserved to be acknowledged for all their hard work and their accomplishments.”
Collins went on to emphasize how academic competitions like these need to be recognized just as much as are the athletic events.
Coach Collins said that “while they may not be sweating on the outside, like an athlete, you can bet while at a competition they are most assuredly sweating on the inside.”