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Success Proves Academic

High-school team sports seem to put the schools on the map, but Scott Wilson, Rajiv Jain and Geoff Hoppe put Lake Braddock Secondary school on television as well, ranking in the top three schools among 81 teams in the area for the "It's Academic" championship.

Beating Thomas Jefferson School for Science and Technology on Sept. 22 was their first feat, earning them a nickname, according to Hoppe.

"We kind of nicknamed ourselves ‘The Magnet Killers' because we beat several magnet schools. Not bad for a couple of public-school kids," he said. "There were kids on Jefferson I never thought I'd be able to beat. For me it was a boost in confidence."

Wilson remembered staying focused in September although it was shortly after the terrorist strikes.

"We were kind of focused on what we were doing," he said.

Than they were up against the Super Bowl champs, so to speak, on March 2, with Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Maryland.” That game sticks out in Hoppe's mind, too.

"The biggest game for me was March 2, the Eleanor Roosevelt High School. I was jittery about that," he said.

"They won the whole thing last year," Wilson said.

Jain was jittery as well.

"I remember I rang in really early for the math question, trig functions. We managed to guess it," he said.

THEIR EXPERIENCE was complete with cheering squads in the audience, people with signs, and nervousness that might be seen on the “Jeopardy” show. One former member of the Lake Braddock "It's Academic" team, Faith Hillis, a 1998 graduate, went on to “Teen Jeopardy” and won the first round. Wilson has his sights on “Jeopardy” as well.

"I watch it every day. I was looking on the Internet how to sign up for the college team," he said.

His mother, Margaret Wilson, confirmed the television schedule.

"Every night, ‘Jeopardy.’ Their biggest goal was to beat their nemesis, Thomas Jefferson, which they did," she said.

Lake Braddock English teacher Christine McGann has been an "It's Academic" coach for 10 years at the school. She had another team that went almost as far as this one in 1998 and got a second place for the state competitions. She knows that the team experience lasts for only one or two years, but it seems to start a foundation for more later in life.

"There are so many benefits. All these kids end up succeeding," she said.

Wilson has been accepted at Virginia Tech, where he plans to pursue broadcast journalism. Rajiv Jain is deciding between Virginia Tech and Carnegie Mellon, and Hoppe is going to Notre Dame. Jain and Wilson got scholarships.

A stigma connected with a team like “It's Academic,” which may hover somewhere around a bookworm/brainy type, isn't something the boys are worried about. Their team is a social outlet as well.

"We're all friends," Jain said. He has known Hoppe since the third grade.

"We've got some girls [on the team]. My ex-girlfriend is on the team," Hoppe said.

One got a homecoming date during a competition in the fall.

TEAMWORK is stressed as well.

"This is not a one-man team in any way. We function as a group," Hoppe added.

Activities they do on the side include Boy Scouts and playing the viola, which Hoppe does, and announcing junior varsity football games for Wilson and tae kwon do for Jain.

"My family's all singers and they expected me to be a singer, but I came home with a viola in fifth grade and I've played ever since," Hoppe said.

McGann credited the boosters group and principal Cheryl Burke for the team support she's received through the years.

"We have had tremendous support from the school and principal," she said.

On Saturday, June 1, the team can be seen on “It's Academic” at 10 a.m., NBC, Channel 4, and possibly on to the finals on June 22.