Russell wins middle school academic meet



RUSSELL The margin of victory at the middle school regional Governor’s Cup academic competition Saturday between Russell and Boyd County was so slim that even though Boyd came in second, the team crushed coach Andy Lyons in a joyous group hug.

“These kids have absolutely nothing to hang their heads about. They’ve come a long way since September. They had a real shot coming into this,” Lyons said.

Russell squeaked out a 41.33 to 38 overall victory in the competition, in which students take assessments in various subjects, write compositions and spar in quick recall matches.

Last year’s margin was more like 50 points, which is more typical, said Russell coach John VanHoose.

“I knew it would be close all week,” he said.

Where Boyd closed the gap was in the assessments, because they lost two quick recall matches, including the final one, against Russell, with the score of that match being 42 to 24.

Like all quick recall matches, its questions ranged from alleles in genetics to X-Y-Z — the diplomatic crisis, not the alphabet — and from jazz saxophonist John Coltrane to transformers — the electrical kind, not the toy.

Packing in that many facts and being able to pull them out in seconds requires study and more study, according to some members of Russell’s starting team. “It’s just something you have to do,” said Izzy McCloud, who recalls days of studying from 9 a.m. to midnight. “You look at what you know and what you need to know.”

Both she and teammate Anushka Valsan knew it would be a tough competition. “The dynamics of regionals this year was different. Boyd County had a lot of competitors,” she said. VanHoose headed off complacency in a team whose history of winning might tempt them to let their guard down. “I kind of scared them a little. I let them know in no uncertain terms that it was going to be close,” he said.

Lyons said his team pushed themselves by practicing for an hour and a half three times a week, giving up Saturdays and some break days, and by carving out time every day to study. “It’s little things like studying 10 or 15 minutes that make a difference,” he said.

Both the Russell and Boyd teams qualify to go to the state competition.

Complete results are on the Kentucky Association for Academic Competition’s website,

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