County sets focus on academic competition

Special to the Enterprise

October 23, 2013

The after-school extracurricular focus was on academics across the Harlan County School District recently as students competed in the inaugural county-wide academic league competition held at James A. Cawood Elementary School.

In an effort to promote academics to all students, the district didn’t allow athletics or other extracurricular events to take place to conflict with the middle school students who came out and competed in what proved to be an intense, down to the wire finish.

The double elimination quick recall tournament was held on the first of three such dates scheduled during the fall semester where only academic events are allowed for the middle school grades. Next year, the league will expand to include elementary teams.

Middle school students will compete in written assessments on Thursday. The final competition is set for Nov. 24.

Organized similar to the Kentucky Governor’s Cup academic league, students in grades six through eight competed from all eight of the district’s middle schools.

“It was awesome. Our first competition was a major success. It was very competitive,” said Superintendent Mike Howard. “We want our focus for this one day each month to be on academics and not athletics or the many other activities which keep our students busy in the evenings. We are about academics and we want to give all our students an opportunity to shine in academics.”

Howard said the academic event “is something I have wanted to do to help prepare our students and give them some experience before the Governor’s Cup competition is held.”

The event was organized through Karen Cox and the Gifted Education program and with volunteer and retired teacher, Virginia Rice.

“I thought it was terrific,” said Curt Rezek, the Cumberland academic coach.

In the double elimination tournament, Cumberland and Rosspoint had each lost a game. Rosspoint was up by 10 at the end of the first half of the final game. Cumberland rallied in the second half to send the contest into overtime. The overtime period was a slugfest as the score was tied 4-4 with the last question to be read. Cumberland’s Laney Cox answered a question about the Jitterbug to give Cumberland the win.

“I just want to brag on all the quick recall teams we have in Harlan County. Cumberland won, but it could literally not have been closer,” said Rezek. “Each team was packed with talent and each school should be proud. I would like to thank Superintendent Howard for bringing this to fruition and to every student, parent, principal, teacher and coach that came out. You have my sincerest gratitude as well.

Rezek emphasized that “These kids are the future of this county. And, if we don’t continue to give them opportunities to shine, they may find it hard to find a reason to stay. They all deserve our respect and admiration.”

While his team was victorious, Rezek said the final match could have gone either way. “Rosspoint was so good,” he said. “I think it was just who got the last question. It literally came down to the last question.”