Junction Academic Team pulls off stunner

The Grand Junction High School Academic Team was looking strong.

After the first few rounds of the State Knowledge Bowl Tournament Tuesday in Boulder, the team was ahead by a decent margin.

Then, the team from Liberty Common High School surged, at one moment in the competition leading by nine points. It was reminiscent of a moment in the 2016 state competition, when the GJHS team was behind and couldn’t pull out a win at state, despite so many years of dominance, placing second overall.

At that low point Tuesday, the team captain approached coach Coady Shawcroft, himself an Academic Team alum, and commented that it was like last year all over again.

“But I told him no, it’s not,” Shawcroft said. “I just asked him, how hard are you willing to work for it?”

Then, in a feat of effort that highlight reels are made of, the team pulled out of the nine-point deficit, surging ahead and ultimately winning the State Knowledge Bowl Tournament Tuesday by 23 points.

It was the team’s 19th first-place finish at state since 1996.

“Their mental fortitude is amazing,” Shawcroft said.

This comes after a first-place win at the Colorado History Bee and Bowl Feb. 18, so now the team will compete in the National History Bee and Bowl April 21-23 in Washington, D.C., and the National Academic Quiz Tournaments High School National Championship Tournament May 26-28 in Atlanta, Georgia.

The Academic Team won nationals in 2015.

Getting ready for state meant daily, and sometimes weekend, practices that could last upward of three hours, Shawcroft said, and preparation for nationals could mean similar effort and dedication.

“These kids work their butts off, I’m so proud of them,” he said, adding that support from the community and the school has also bolstered the team’s enduring success.

“Part of it, too, is we have a very dedicated group of alumni who help develop the team skills,” he explained. “Right now, the three coaches are all (team) alumni and I think that helps, there’s kind of a generational passing of knowledge.”


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