Hall returning to in-person school on hybrid schedule Jan. 19
Hall County Schools will return to an in-person hybrid schedule beginning Tuesday, Jan. 19, after the school system reported stabilizing COVID-19 numbers and “significantly” decreased student cases, Superintendent Will Schofield announced Thursday morning.
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Academic team competes for national title
Flowery Branch team has qualified for nationals 3 times
Flowery Branch High School Academic Team members, from left, Tyler Williams, Steven Porter and Eli Roman listen to a question during a practice last Wednesday for the team’s participation in the National Academic Quiz Tournament’s High School National Championship. - photo by Tom Reed

The team finished the preliminary matches in the top 50 percent of the 218 teams competing in Nationals.
"The team did not make it to the play-off rounds, but the experience was a good one for our students," Grindle said. "With this experience, we will be better prepared for this tournament in future years. We were proud to compete with world-class teams from world-class schools."

As most Hall County residents were celebrating their Memorial Day weekend with cookouts and lake trips, the six members of the Flowery Branch High School Academic Team were in Atlanta competing for a national title.

"This is the third time we've made it to nationals, but this is the first time we've been able to go," said Joan Grindle, the team's coach and advisor.

Grindle, who has coached academic teams for 15 years, said usually nationals are held in places such as New York City, Chicago or Washington, D.C., so the team was not able to afford the previous two trips.

The team is the Region 8AAAA champion and it qualified for the National Academic Quiz Tournament's High School National Championship by winning the Savannah Country Day Tournament earlier this year. Results from this past weekend weren't available as of press time.

"We're pretty excited," team captain Jake Jacobs said. "School ended two weeks ago and we're still going into school for practice sometimes."

Rising senior Meghan Magee said the team did not just practice at their high school.

"We went to Georgia Tech for a scrimmage against other teams that qualified," she said. "I hope we do well."

Jacobs, who graduated from Flowery Branch this year, has been on the team since he was a freshman, and described academic team as a team-based "Jeopardy!" competition.

"We kind of realized if we put in a certain amount of effort, we could be one of the best in the state," he said. "We kind of stepped it up junior and senior years and it paid off."

The competition began Friday with scrimmage matches and continued Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Grindle said Sunday was for playoffs and consolation rounds.

She said academic team competitions can follow different formats, and the one for nationals is one the team does not use regularly. Students have 18 minutes to answer as many questions about high school subjects and the fine arts as they can.

"It's like trivia on steroids," Grindle said.

The team practices once or twice a week with both easy and high-level questions. Grindle said the easy questions teach students to answer quickly and the more difficult ones encourage development of in-depth knowledge.

"One reason for our success is we try to specialize the interests between each player. For example, I'm more of a science person," team member Tyler Williams said. "This year we're not sure if we're quite prepared (for nationals) but our goal is to go and get the experience."

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