Academic Team returns to the spotlight

Four members of the Academic team (Ohm Tripathi, Sarah Wilms, Deeba Lealaz, and Robert Sands) appear virtually on CBS 6s annual Battle of the Brains competition.

Ben Schneider

Four members of the Academic team (Ohm Tripathi, Sarah Wilms, Deeba Lealaz, and Robert Sands) appear virtually on CBS 6’s annual Battle of the Brains competition.

On Jan. 1, CBS’s Channel 6 aired the academic team’s first round competition in the Battle of the Brains tournament. 

The team competed from a classroom at the school over Zoom. In previous years, they would travel to Channel 6’s building and record it in their studio. Coach Vincent Ikley hopes to return to in-person tournaments in the next few years, but he appreciates that they were able to compete together after having to stay home last year. 

“This last year we actually were able to get all together in one room,” Ikley said. “The students had their Chromebooks and I sat in the very back of the classroom watching on mine. I really hope that next year we’ll get back to the old [way of] going up to the studios and doing it that way.”

Battle of the Brains uses a format of four players per team with no substitutions. Clover Hill’s team consisted of Juniors Robert Sands, Sarah Wilms and Ohm Tripathi along with Sophomore Deeba Lealaz. 

Sands feels that the competition went fairly well, especially against a talented opponent. The Cavaliers lost in a close match against Fort Defiance High School. 

“We did lose the first round, but it was by a few points,” Sands said. “Fort Defiance high school, [the school] we went up against in the first round, was a difficult match as they were a former winner.”

Despite the loss, Sands is excited that he had the opportunity to participate in Battle of the Brains. 

“It was an interesting experience doing the filming for a TV episode even if it was via a zoom call,” Sands said. “I also got the bonus of being on TV even if it was for [only] one episode.”

Junior Ohm Tripathi prepared for Battle of the Brains by doing mock competitions with the rest of the team at their weekly Wednesday practices. 

“We prepared by reviewing some common topics and events that are regularly part of tournament questions, but mostly we just played practice rounds with one another to help ensure cour competitive energy,” Tripathi said. 

According to Ikley, the Cavaliers compete in Battle of the Brains every year. He hopes that one day the team can win the entire tournament.

“Last year we won the first round and went to the second round and unfortunately we lost in January,” Ikley said. “This year, we came close, but we didn’t win our first round. [In] Battle of the Brains, once you lose, you’re out. If you keep winning you move on, and eventually you have one school that’s the overall champion. One day I hope to get there, but we shall see.”

Besides Battle of the Brains, the team competes in several tournaments throughout the year that follow a similar format. According to Ikley, the team is preparing for a regional tournament later in the spring. However, the dates and locations are not clear due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have different tournaments, and pre-COVID, they’d be open,” said Ikley. “We call them regional tournaments, and they would be an all-day affair. This year, we should have our regional coming up soon, and we’ll see how that goes. I’m hoping it’s going to be in person again.”

Tripathi enjoyed the opportunity to compete in a televised tournament and thinks that the team will benefit from competing in Battle of the Brains. 

“It was a unique experience that I feel will stay with the team forever,” Tripathi said. “While there was a plethora of technical difficulties, getting the team back onto TV for the first time since the pandemic boosted everyone’s morale.”

He hopes that the team can use this year’s competition as a learning experience and come back stronger in the future. He is excited about the team’s potential.

“While we are a bit raw and have a lot to learn, I am excited because of the potential of our team,” Tripathi said. “We have no graduating seniors, and with potential new additions, we can only get stronger. Our team is really well-rounded, and we have a competitive will to get better.”