The team of eighth graders from Lehighton captured the championship of the 22nd Annual ACE (Academic Challenge Eighth) Competition held Tuesday evening.
Their victory did not come without a fight. The third and final day of the competition saw great matches that came down to the final seconds.
Palmerton and Tamaqua started the night off in Round 13 to determine third place.
At the end of the first round, Palmerton was ahead 14-3. However, Tamaqua took the lead during the second and held onto it until the end. Tamaqua won with a final score of 35-27.
Round 14 put Tamaqua against the undefeated Lehighton team. A win from Lehighton would give them the championship. Being a double-elimination competition, a loss would force a Round 15.
Tamaqua came out determined, taking a 10-1 lead by the conclusion of the first round. The Lehighton team gained momentum during the second round, closing the gap with their 23 points to Tamaqua's 37.
During the third round, the score got as close as 37-35, but Tamaqua eventually pulled off the win with a final score 39-33.
Round 15 was played to determine the champion.
Both Lehighton and Tamaqua struggled during the first round, with Lehighton only scoring 4 points and Tamaqua 3 points.
The match picked up in the second round, leaving Tamaqua ahead 32-26.
The score remained close for the entire duration.
Family and friends present in the audience were nervously watching the teams go back and forth.
At one point during the third round, the score was tied 30-30.
In the end, the Lehighton team correctly answered key questions in the final minute and won the championship with a final score of 38-30.
The Lehighton students were very proud of their results, defeating the Tamaqua squad which had taken the title the last two years.
"We're all feeling pretty great right now," said team captain Kelsey Andrews. "We knew how close it was, so we're really happy about getting the win."
"We felt well prepared," added Andrews. "We'd meet after school each week and go over topics and practice with the buzzers so we wouldn't be nervous."
Andrews also mentioned that their dominance in math helped them overcome any difficulties in subjects they were less comfortable in, which she thought to be history.
Lehighton adviser Susan McElvar was thrilled with the win and extremely proud of the hard work that the team put into preparing for the competition.
"This is my first first-place win," said McElvar. "This team has been a dream to work with."
"We had a lot of obstacles due to snow days and missed practices, but they came back when they had to. I can't say enough about this great group of kids.
"We had practices after school and they also took practice questions home and studied on their own time," McElvar added about how the team prepared. "They even watched teen jeopardy."
The ACE Competition, held at Tamaqua Area Middle School, was a great showing of academic competition between some of the area's brightest students.
Janet Kern, who has been involved with ACE for its 22 years, served as moderator and praised the students for their actions over the competition.
"I was impressed with their sense of friendly competition, their friendliness toward each other, and their manners," said Kern to the audience of supporters. "It has been a privilege to be here again for the competition."
The third place Palmerton team included members Lauren Campbell, Isaac George, Eliza Good, Bruce Hettler, Richard Roselli, and Kaithlyn Stevens. Patti Jo Boyd served as their adviser.
Tamaqua members who earned second place included Jacob Gursky, David Kunkel, Nathan MacDonald, Harold Moll, Olivia Morrison, and Leah Pashley. Their advisers were Jennifer DiSante and Alisa Kemmerer.
The championship members of the Lehighton team were Kelsey Andrews, Kirk Breiner, Kyle Collins, Brianna Karpowicz, Ellen Perkins, and Falyn Weiss, while McElvar served as adviser.