Union Free School District
- Hastings-on-Hudson U.F.S.D.
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Hastings Wins Regional Academic Challenge Contest
With a first place finish in the Westchester Academic Challenge competition last weekend, the Hastings High School’s two-time national champion Academic Challenge team is wrapping up another stellar year.
The high school’s A and B teams placed first and fourth in the A division, and the C Team, with six freshmen, finished in second place in the B Division. This was the first in-person event for the team in more than two years, and the competition was held for the first time at Hastings High School. A total of 10 teams from six schools participated.
Earlier this year the Academic Challenge team qualified for the 2022 national competition in which they will defend their title in the small schools division. The team currently ranks first in small schools and third overall.
With Jeopardy-like contests, but structured for teams of four, Academic Challenge is a club for high school students who enjoy trivia. With their fingers on the buzzer, students answer questions on a wide range of topics, including math, science, literature, current affairs, music, pop culture and more.
Coach and club advisor Michael Willson admits that his teams do have areas of strength and weakness, but he’s not telling. “We don’t want to give the competition any advantages,” he says.
About 35 students participate in the club, meeting weekly for practice and mental agility tests. The Hastings High School club participates in about eight competitions a year, usually fielding four teams in the competitions, two in what might be considered the Varsity level, and two in JV. In the past two years most contests have been virtual, with the games’ format adapted for online participation.
Team president, senior Charlie Linder has been with the club since ninth grade and was on the 2020 and 2021 championship teams. “It’s a ton of fun,” he says. “You learn a lot of new stuff and meet a lot of new people.” He says his strongest contribution to the team is in the field of science.
Vice president Sasha Gordon, who was also on the championship teams in 2020 and 2021, says he enjoys being tested on his knowledge. With strength in history and geography, the high school senior values learning new things. “It’s interesting to learn about things I wouldn’t otherwise have known, like pop culture,” he says.
The national championships are in June in Chicago and New Orleans, and Hastings anticipates competing virtually.
(May 1, 2022)