Gaithersburg, Maryland often suffers the stigma of being a bedroom community to a large metropolis, nestled between more affluent neighbors, who scrunch up their noses at the thought of living a few miles north or east of their hoity-toity communities. It’s filled with enclaves that would rather be known as Quince Orchard, or Laytonsville, or the Kentlands, rather than resort to the G-word.
Not that there is anything wrong with Gaithersburg. An easy drive to D.C., it has acres of parkland, an Agricultural Reserve, cultural facilities, wonderful places to dine, to learn, history, good schools, good jobs, and absolutely great people. It also has some of the greatest kids on the planet.
Still, it’s hard to compete with the hoopla of nearby communities, laden with over-achievers, they make good and great sometimes seem as if you’re barely coming up to snuff.
This is especially true of McLean, Virginia.
The home of many of the Real Housewives of D.C., McLean, Virginia is filled with posh homes and its high school is ranked as one of the best in the nation. People are absolutely desperate to live in McLean in order to send their child to that high school. Real estate prices are ridiculous, taxes through the roof, and the tension in the air is so palpable it makes me shiver every time I cross it’s boundary lines.
Under McLean High School’s notable alumni on its Wikipedia post are the former CEO of Time magazine, correspondents for ABC, Olympians, judges, and the daughter of former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney. The list seems almost endless. The same category on the Quince Orchard Wikipedia post lists only eight unfamiliar names — 2 rappers, an actor, 4 athletes and a Miss World beauty pageant contestant for Indonesia.
So, when the Quince Orchard High School academic team of Gaithersburg, Maryland soundly trounced McLean, I had to stand up and cheer.
The match took place on a local TV game show called It’s Academic on Washington, D.C.’s NBC4. Similar to quiz bowl, three teams of high school students vie against one another to answer questions in subjects like Science, Art, Mathematics, History, and Current Events.
It’s Academic is HARD. I used to do College Bowl and the questions on the show are as intense as its collegiate cousin. Further, I had to do this in front of other students, not on television with all my friends and teachers watching.
Since host Hillary Howard took over from the esteemed Mac McGarry, the competition is just as fierce though more prone to cut to cheerleaders and pep squad demonstrations. Don’t get me wrong — I’m glad these kids are there to support the nerds for once, but would they have come if the show wasn’t on TV? I surely hope we’ve progressed that far, but as one of the nerdy kids of the past, I would really love to see more about these young geniuses instead of half-time shows from students who already receive loads of attention elsewhere.
But back to the competition. Bishop Ireton, McLean, and Quince Orchard High Schools squared — or perhaps triangled — off on yesterday’s episode. Bishop Ireton is a private school in Alexandria, Virigina. Wearing matching jackets and ties, Quince Orchard team members Logan Feingold and Tanay Wakhare, under leadership of team captain Natalie Rubin, looked dapper and ready to play.
And play they did.
Questions whizzed by at the speed of light and Nat Rubin’s finger was nearly always first to answer the buzzer. But, trigger skills are not the same as academic moxie, as many a defeated team has found out. Quince Orchard had that rare combination of being first on the buzzer while simultaneously on top of an astounding, and wide-ranging, display of scholastic knowledge. In fact, I believe they only missed one question the entire night.
Not to say the other teams didn’t do well. In fact, Bishop Ireton came in at a very respectable 330 points, only ten points behind McLean’s score of 340. Quince Orchard blew them both away with a final score of 555 incredible points. All the more stupendous when you consider the advantages the other schools and students have that the typical kid from Gaithersburg doesn’t.
I’m really proud of these kids and hope they see the congratulations I offer here. If they do, I hope they’ll leave a comment or email and let me know. Kudos, too, to their coach, Mr. Joshua Schuman. It takes a great coach to make a great team, and his dedication to the students at Quince Orchard is astounding.
I want to congratulate the McLean and Bishop Ireton teams as well. These kids also get up early for practice sessions, stay late at school to study reference materials. Either team would have had a great chance of winning the competition if not for Quince Orchard’s extraordinary performance.
Often, it is said that it takes heart to be a champion. While that’s true, it’s also the smallest part of the equation. It takes heart to give up other activities, T.V., chill time and friends, to put your butt in the chair and do the work necessary to be a champ. Nat, Logan, and Tanay are undoubtedly smart — but that isn’t enough. They had a great coach, but that isn’t enough, either. What they had was the guts to take on Goliaths and the will to study hard enough to send McLean’s giant tumbling.
I know these three will be augmenting the Quince Orchard notable alumni list very soon.