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Oakton Academic Team Takes District

The Concorde District "It's Academic" trophy sits on top of a filing cabinet in Oakton English teacher Claire Seymour's classroom. The list of yearly district winners, etched into the trophy base, reads "Jefferson, Jefferson, Jefferson, Jefferson, Oakton."

"It's nice to see Oakton on the bottom," said Oakton senior and team president Emily Guendelsberger.

"It's Academic," the Saturday morning quiz show pitting local high school against local high school, has been an official Virginia High School League (VHSL) competition for five years. And Jefferson, a magnet school for science and technology, has taken the Concorde District title for the first four of those five years. But at this year's district tournament, on Saturday Jan. 11, Jefferson's streak ended.

The Oakton team went undefeated at the tournament, beating Jefferson and taking the district crown.

"Everyone in the Concorde District just kind of factors in one loss [to Thomas Jefferson]," said Guendelsberger, who was hesitant to gloat about beating Jefferson. She did admit, however, a feeling of exhilaration after winning.

"It was kind of cool walking down the hallway, like that scene in 'The Right Stuff,'" She said.

Other team members, though, were not so modest.

"[Thomas Jefferson] needed to be beaten," said senior Diane McMartin. "Losing is probably good for their social development."

Each high school team fields four players for district competition. Oakton's district team members were Guendelsberger, fellow seniors James Goodwin and Peter Gardner, and freshman Eric Lukas. Goodwin and Guendelsberger have been on the team for three years. Freshman Lukas and recent transfer Gardner both joined the team this year.

"The two new people came in who are really good," said Guendelsberger.

<mh>Competing

<bt>On the day of the district competition the team competed in nine "It's Academic" matches.

"One time when we were playing Lake Braddock I almost fainted," said Guendelsberger. "I think I had too much caffeine."

The students answer trivia questions from a wide range of subjects, such as science, math, literature and history. Guendelsberger said success in competition has a lot to do with momentum. Goodwin agreed.

"If you get on a roll you kind of ride it," said Goodwin. "And if you're getting crushed you kind of check out."

The team's next competition will be on the television version of the show, to be aired on March 9. They will be competing against Georgetown Day School and Stuart High School. Guendelsberger said the questions on the televised version of the show are easier than in VHSL competition. And Goodwin said the bright lights are not as distracting as he imagined.

"The audience is not as big as you think," he said.

Although "It's Academic" teams are made up of four members, around 15 students regularly attend the Oakton team's Tuesday practices.

"I like that there are no tryouts and that anyone can come and they try to get everyone on a team," said junior Andy Medici. "There may be three teams at one time."