MHS Chess, Academic teams FUNDAMENTAL to GMC All Sports success

Abby Waechter | Staff Writer

Back row: (from left to right) Arav Bhatt (12), Adithya Deepak (10), Rithvik Kilaparthi (12), Kushal Kothapalli (10), Constantin Stanescu-Bellu (11), Ruthvik Ayyagari (11), Couch Kieth Brackenridge (4th year as Head Coach). Middle Row: (from left to right) Vedant Sharma (10), Adrian Fernando (12), Saketh Kalikiri (9), Surya Suresh (10), Rutherford Medley (10), Saif El-kilani (11). Bottom Row: (from left to right) Michelle Chen (10), Neev Gupta (11), Jason Wang (9), Nicholas Gittens (9).

Dominance is the name of the game.

Since entering the Greater Miami Conference (GMC) in 2007, Mason has captured the All Sports Championship trophy every year. This trophy is awarded to the school that displayed the best year in athletics. Each school receives points from every sport, depending on how well their team did. 

For example, when a specific sport wins a GMC Championship, they earn 11 points towards the total score, and whichever school has the most points following the end of the spring season wins the trophy. Following the end of the 2020 Fall season, Mason currently holds the lead with a total of 93.5 points, and trailing behind is Lakota West with 69.5 points. However, Mason’s lead is the result of a “secret weapon” of sorts– two lesser known sports teams that most people do not know the competition relies on. 

Mason’s chess and academic quiz teams often go unrecognized as contributing programs, but they have proven their impact towards Mason clinching the All Sports trophy year after year. Since their cumulative scores count towards the total points needed to win the trophy, these teams play a critical role.

In 2019, the chess team won their GMC Championship, contributing an additional 11 points to the winter season total. The academic quiz team also contributed seven points towards the trophy, which consequently put Mason ahead of Oak Hills for that season. Junior Dhruv Shah said that the chess team is a very reliable GMC win, as they have won nine of the championships in the last ten years, five of which were in a row. 

“I think there is a little pressure to win our GMC championship,” Shah said. “Mostly we ignore that [pressure]. We know that we’re pretty good and do well at matches.” 

Unlike sports such as basketball or softball, chess and academic quiz teams encounter a different type of stress that other athletes cannot imagine. Instead of the buzzer-beaters and 7th inning home runs, these athletes use a unique type of intellect. For them, it ultimately comes down to who will be put into checkmate first, or who will answer the life sciences question correctly in the lightning round of a match. 

However, Shah said that there are some comparative moves in chess that can come close to the glory of being the “home run hero” of a baseball or softball game.

 “In chess, you get 40 minutes to play,” Shah said. “Right before the clock ends and you get a checkmate, that’s the rush and the feeling of ‘I just won this’.” 

Comparatively, the academic quiz team encounters the stress of their own sport as well. The competitions entail questions separated by categories such as: literature, geography, math, life science, and more. There is also an alphabet round in which a team is given a piece of paper with questions on it and all of the answers start with the same letter; the team has four minutes to complete as much as they can. The team thinks of the lightning as the “make or break” round for most academic quiz team matches. 

The lightning round includes 20 straight toss-up questions that can be about anything, and each correct answer is worth two points. Senior Sankhya Rajan said that most of the time the matches are down to the wire, and the last round can determine if they win or lose. 

“That last moment when you hit your buzzer and you answer a question correctly, you’ve won points, and everyone just relaxes because you know you’ve won,” Rajan said. “Finally, you get that last question right, and you and your team know that you’ve done it, and that weight is lifted off.” 

The chess and academic quiz teams are programs that not many people know exist at Mason. However, their influence on our school’s 14 year streak of bringing home the All Sports trophy is invaluable. If not for Mason’s chess or academic teams, the gap between Mason and the field  would be significantly closer and could potentially change outcomes.

Rajan said it is standard for the academic team to place at the top of the GMC, yet it feels that there is a lack of recognition in their yearly contributions toward the trophy.  

“A lot of people don’t realize that we actually count towards GMCs, even though we contribute just as much; if not more than other sports,” Rajan said. “We normally come first or second in our GMC, and to us, that’s normal. We contribute a reliable amount of points almost every year without any special recognition.”

Photo contributed by MHS Yearbook