Ward Melville Academic Challenges Club Wins Science Bowl Regional Competition

February 27, 2023

The Ward Melville High School Academic Challenges Club secured a spot in the Science Bowl national tournament by clinching first place in the regional competition at Brookhaven National Lab on February 3. The team, consisting of Rithik Sogal, Ben Proothi, Benjamin Zhang, Anna Xing, and captain Michael Melikyan, will be traveling to Washington, D.C. in April to compete against sixty other teams.

At the regional competition, the team went undefeated in four round-robin matches and proceeded to a double-elimination final round against Great Neck South. This impressive accomplishment is a testament to the team’s hard work and dedication this year. For an inside perspective of the team’s journey to qualify for nationals, I interviewed Academic Challenges Club vice presidents Rithik Sogal and Benjamin Zhang.


Question: As a vice president, what vision did you have for the team this year? To what extent has it been fulfilled so far?

Rithik Sogal: “My main vision as an officer was to improve on last year and to have a more balanced team to increase our chances of succeeding at the regional competition. I think we succeeded at completing this vision considering we were able to improve drastically and place first in the Regional. In addition, the inclusion of people who know other fields helped us create a balanced team in preparation for the Regional tournament.”

Benjamin Zhang: “As a vice president of the Academic Challenges Club, I knew that this year’s team had a lot of potential to succeed. The team has a much broader range of knowledge compared to those of the years before, and we were sure to consider each team member’s strengths and weaknesses throughout tryouts. This potential was definitely seen in full force at the regional competition, as we won first place for the first time since 2014.”


Q: What was the most exciting part of the regional competition? What was the hardest part?

RS: “The most exciting part of the competition was the last few minutes of the final against Great Neck South. To know that we were about to qualify for nationals for the first time in 9 or so years while also beating out one of the strongest and most dominant teams in our region was very thrilling. The hardest part of the competition was walking into the final with a level head and staying calm throughout the game because there was a lot on the line.”

BZ: “The most exciting and also most difficult part of the regional competition had to be our three games against Great Neck South. Before playing them in the double-elimination rounds, we had breezed through the round-robin games in our group. During the double-elimination rounds, both teams took one loss against each other, leading to an exciting and stressful final round to win the competition.”


Q: In terms of both the team and club administration, how is this year different from last year?

RS: “As a team, one of the major changes is the inclusion of a majority of juniors so that we can have a strong team going into next year. In addition, we included people coming from a wide variety of science backgrounds meaning that we don’t have four or five people who all are knowledgeable in one field of science. As far as administration goes, the major change was the increased involvement in registration and other aspects regarding the competition.”

BZ: “The team from last year was extremely strong, but they were also very centralized around physics and chemistry, leading to some weaknesses in other scientific disciplines. I think that this year we managed to form a team that is more well-rounded, leading to our success. In addition, the club has had a change in advisor this year but still remains largely student-run.”


Q: How does the team look going forward into nationals?

RS: “The team is confident and working hard towards preparing for the national tournament. We all understand the competitiveness will skyrocket and we are working to prepare to meet that high level. As an officer, I’m confident in the team’s ability to succeed in April.”

BZ: “We are really excited to go to nationals in Washington, D.C., and are continuing to practice in order to do our best at a much more competitive level. The trip is completely expense-free and we can’t wait to represent Long Island at the competition.”

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