May 27, 2010 at 12:27 a.m.
Updated May 29, 2010 at 12:29 a.m.
Tracy Lu hoped to end her senior year at Calhoun High School with a fourth academic competition win, but freshman John Gee stood in the way - for a time.
Returning state champions recently competed in the 100th University Interscholastic League state academic competition.
"This is really perfect for me," said Lu, who placed first after a tie breaker with teammate Gee.
The four-member team recalls competing at the elementary school level in math.
We started with number sense in fourth grade, said Jennifer Hsu, a Calhoun High School senior.
The math team has won state in their 4-A conference three years consecutively.
"This is the latest success in a long time," said Dana Dworaczyk, coach of the math team.
Adorned in awards, Dworaczyk's classroom reflects the success of her students over the years.
The furthest the team had advanced prior to its state wins was regionals in 1997, Dworaczyk said.
Students are given 40 minutes to complete 60 questions, and Hsu believes the time crunch is the hardest part of the competition.
"Forty minutes seems like a long time, but for 60 questions, it's not," said Hsu, who is salutatorian.
Lu added that despite the time crunch, all her teammates are strong in all the different areas.
"To be able to compete at the state level, you have to be able to complete the problems," said Lu, who is valedictorian.
Grace Gee, a junior, hopes to continue the winning streak as well as make it a family tradition.
"We ask each other questions. It's a mutual support," said Grace.
However, teammates Hsu and Lu said most of the support comes from their families.
"It nice going home and making them proud," said Hsu, who will attend the University of Texas in Austin this fall.
The two seniors hope the Gees will continue placing and winning state.
"It's like a relay, passing on the baton from the senior to the freshman," said Grace of Lu to her brother, John.
Lu admits she did not know what to expect as a freshman, but after each year held the expectation to herself.
The 18-year-old plans to attend Harvard this fall.
In nearby Industrial, more state champions surfaced.
Repeat UIL champions 1-A Industrial High School's Spelling team placed first as a team and individually.
"We have the best spelling team," said Veronica McManus, UIL Spelling and Vocabulary coach.
The team of four must study more than 1,500 words.
"There's a tremendous amount of hours and tournaments," McManus said.
Despite endless amounts of studying, Caity Adams and her teammates entered state UIL a bit optimistic.
"I think we weren't quite as sure when we got in there," said Adams, who had competed in spelling bees in elementary.
McManus found this year's competition to be a bit tougher, but her students managed to win above all.
"We approach everything with a lot of discipline," said McManus, whose team produced the champion state speller.
"I got more excited about us winning as a team, then by myself," said Logan DeBord, who won the state-speller designation for a second year in a row.
The junior joined the team with his sister at the time and has gone on to make a name for himself, McManus said.
"They call him the walking dictionary," she said.