Four students from Chantilly High’s Economics Team placed second in the nation — beating out 1,500 teams — in the 2006 Economics Challenge, May 20-22, in New York City.
"I'm just amazed at how hard they worked because this was all done on their own time," said coach Joe Clement. "For the whole competition, they had to study on their own. So it really speaks to how hard they were willing to work,"
The team of Adriana Medina, Natalie Mutchler, Alex Pepper and Sam Perkins took part in the world of economics competitions this year for the first time. Clement — an economics teacher and coach at Chantilly, with four years of Economics Challenges encounters under his belt — led his team in the David Ricardo Division.
THE ECONOMICS CHALLENGE is an intensive competition exploring micro, macro and international economics. The first round consists of a written test on micro and macroeconomics. Team members take the test individually, the scores are combined and the lowest score is dropped.
The next segment is also written, covering international economics; in this portion, teammates are free to discuss answers with one another. The scores from the written rounds are combined, and the top two teams advance to the final, buzzer round.
The Chantilly team won the state competition March 30 in Richmond and advanced to Regionals, held in Philadelphia on April 23. State champions from the northeast were pitted against one another — an overwhelming prospect for the novice team.
“We were intimidated … the teams had strong records and had been competing in the past,” said Medina. But initial apprehension was quelled once the actual competition was underway. Regarding strategy, Clement said, “They decided to go for it all and tried to answer every question, instead of playing it conservative and leaving some blank.”
The newcomers were in first place upon entering the final round and, Clement noted, “It was just a matter of beating the other team to the buzzer.” The originally daunting atmosphere turned into a confidence-boosting experience.
At the nationals, held in the Big Apple, Pepper said, “We were definitely nervous, sweaty palms and everything,” but Clement and the team did their best to play it cool. Chantilly was second to the Minnesota team, going into the buzzer round.
“Minnesota was where the competition started before it went national,” said Medina. “That was intimidating, but we tried to stay focused and not let it interfere with answering questions.” In the end, it all came down to reflexes; the Minnesota team proved to be phenomenally quick in hitting the buzzer, and that ultimately cost Chantilly first place.
Still, Clement has nothing but words of praise for the members of his team. "They worked their tails off and jelled as a team," he said. "They did what you wanted them to do strategically; but really, they’re just four of the nicest people I’d ever taught.”
The compliments are reciprocated; the team relied on Clement’s optimism throughout the competition. “Mr. Clement was the impetus behind the team’s driving force,” said Pepper. “He was a real confidence booster.”
The weeks spent practicing established friendships among these four teenagers who started out as little more than strangers. “We had good chemistry,” said Pepper. “Things were always amiable.” The team met once a week as competition time grew closer, practicing with the buzzer and anticipating questions.
In preparation for Philadelphia, they demonstrated their true resolve and grit — the teens enthusiastically took on another time-consuming activity, remaining after school nearly every day. Clement recalled, “The first day we practiced, I told them, 'You guys have been doing great. We can prepare or just go up there and have fun.' They said, 'Let’s go to win it.' We met every day and did more advanced concepts. It was kind of like taking an extra class after school.”
With each win, the students were awarded $100 and $1,000 savings bonds. For those keeping tabs, the range of benefits add up to cash prizes, new friendships and travel opportunities. Yet, as Medina points out, the exposure to so versatile a subject as economics proves to be the most esteemed benefit of all: “What we learned in class will continue to influence my daily life.”