The Marlboro County High School Academic Challenge team has overcome several obstacles during the 2018-19 school year.
Team members are showing how hard work and perseverance are paying off by receiving an invitation to participate in the JV division at the 37th annual National Academic Challenge Championship in Arlington, Va., on May 30-June 1.
Team members qualified for it based on their performance at the Pee Dee Regional Academic Challenge Tournament by finishing in the top 15 percent on March 23.
At the end of the tournament, the team ranked fifth in Division 2.
Davan Rivers, co-captain of the squad, noted that most team members were freshmen and one sophomore.
Other members of the team are Darius Hardison, co-captain, Essence Anderson, Roger Jacobs, Dilek Martin, Grayson Nolan, Amina Quick, and Kanan Townsend.
Coaches are Latoya Boatwright, Wayne McRae, and Dr. Carolyn A. Prince.
And due to being such a young team, they hadn't taken academic classes such as Biology 1, Chemistry 1, Pre-Calculus, Calculus, and World History where many of the questions came from for the matches.
"We have worked really hard and have been staying after school every day studying," Rivers said.
Townsend said the school average before the 2018-19 team started was three points.
This average was beaten during the team's first match.
Rivers said no matter the outcome, the team will not be disappointed because they know they tried their hardest.
"We know we came from a three-point average to going to the national championship," she said. "No matter what, we are going to be proud to be there and to honor Marlboro County."
Her mother, Carrole Rivers, said she was extremely proud of the group and how far they have come.
Carrole Rivers, who works for Hanes in Laurel Hill, N.C., said the company will donate the polo shirts for the team.
Boatwright said it was a job well done for the team since it hadn't been done before.
Prince said she was in awe of the team because they were mostly ninth graders.
"They showed commitment because they would come and practice," she said.
At regionals, Prince said, the team had three ties. One tie took 12 questions to break the tie. And for the other two ties, they lost by one point.
"What we did as coaches was to provide what they needed and got out of the way," she said.
In a phone interview with the Herald-Advocate, Deborah Hardison, mother of Darius Hardison, said she was very proud of the team's accomplishment.
"They worked hard," she said. "Basically, they started with a new team. They diligently practiced. They have proved they are competitors."
She commended the teachers who assisted the students on the team by putting forth their best efforts.
"They helped the students be up to par," she said. "As a parent, it is good to know the school is behind you and helping your children grow."
Margaret Nolan, mother of Grayson Nolan, said most of the students in Academic Challenge were in it at the School of Discovery.
Nolan credited their teacher there, Brynn Anderson, who was instrumental in getting them started in it and coaching them.
Nolan added Prince at the high school was crucial in helping the students.
"I wanted to give them kudos for it," she said.
Team members have already started recruiting students for the 2019-20 school year.
Rivers planned to attend the ninth grade orientation to recruit students for the team next season.
She encouraged students to join the team.
"You don't have to be 'smart' to be on here," Rivers said. "You have to want to be on here. You have to have that passion to be able to study and remember."