LHS Wins Championship Of Academics

On Thursday, March 22nd, the Latta High School Academic Challenge Team won the Division II State Championship of Academics through competition at Francis Marion University, hosted by the Pee Dee Education Center. The team, led by coach and science teacher Elaine Smith, battled a tough Laurens High School team, representing their student body of 1,600, right down to the wire.

“I am so proud of this showing for our team,” commented Principal Leigh Sloan. “Mrs. Smith chooses to develop every player and had 12 students compete against Laurens’ 4 best students.”
Mrs. Smith agreed that her inclusive strategy benefits the team, “This is my third year coaching the team. In my first year, I relied too heavily on our strongest players, and we placed only 5th in the region. For the past two years, I’ve focused on player development instead of the win. When every player on the team knows they will be called to the team table to compete, they are sharper and more attentive in practice, and apply strategies more consistently. There is no implicit second-string on this team. Every team member played a role in getting us to state.”
While success depends on all team members, kudos to Junior Fitzhugh Bethea who earned the most toss-up points during the regular season, the regional tournament, and the state tournament. Bethea prepares for competitions by reading, mostly history and politics, and is excited for this win, “I’m happy that something academic can get a lot of attention.”
The team is led by Senior Captains Brianna Carter, Sam George, Preston Johnson, and Briana Williams.
The strength of these leaders was evident throughout the year as they worked with team statistician Skyla Watson to determine weaknesses to concentrate on in weekly practices.
The leaders reached out to faculty and staff to assist in their preparations.
Mrs. Smith expressed appreciation for this help, “Much of the team’s success can be attributed to the support received from the Latta Viking community. Parents and students came out to matches to support the team, our teachers served as judges for home and region matches, and staff members served as scorekeeper and timekeeper. Our moderator, Christy Berry, made certain that our home matches were conducted with poise and professionalism.”
“Latta High School places a high value on academic preparation. This is evidenced by the Academic Challenge Team’s success. We are grateful to Mrs. Smith for her many hours of work with the team. I am proud of each member and their individual contributions to the championship,” claimed Principal Sloan. “Latta Middle School’s team came in first runner-up at State, so the future of Academic Challenge at Latta High School is very bright!”
Latta High School Academic Challenge team members include: Fitzhugh Bethea, Brianna Carter, Hailee Diaz, Emir Elhuni, Sam George, Gracen Grainger, Christian Kate Hayes, Madelon Hucks, Preston Johnson, Ryan Johnson, Lea Foster Khalil, Matthew Mason, Jacob Nolan, Everard Seay, and Briana Williams.

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