Lincoln-Way East AFJROTC takes third in national academic bowl
Thursday, July 12, 2018

From June 22 through June 26, 2018, Lincoln-Way East Junior Air Force ROTC cadets attended the JROTC Leadership and Academic Bowl Championship (JLAP Championship) in Washington, D.C. The Griffins were invited to participate as one of only sixteen teams nationwide. Team members included seniors PJ Janicki, Kirsten Lutz, Paige Sackman and Alex Desjardins. Alternates Lexie Johnson and Jake Leonard also attended.

The academic competition began as an online competition in November of 2017. Teams from all over the country answered questions similar to those on standardized tests such as the SAT/ACT, questions regarding JROTC as well as questions regarding current events. Teams who earned the highest overall percentage from each round moved on to the next. From round one to round two, approximately half of the 327 teams advanced. Only 16 teams advanced beyond round two in order to attend the national competition.

Attending the JLAB Championship is competitive, but cadets competed with each other for a spot on the team long before attending nationals. Lincoln-Way East cadets are selected to participate in Academic Bowl based on an online practice “try out” test. The top six cadets (four cadets and two alternates) with the highest scores are invited to be a member of Academic Bowl.

In order to prepare for the competition, cadets mostly reviewed current events. “We prepared separately by reading and taking notes on different sections of leadership books and by staying up to date with current events,” says team captain PJ Janicki. Cadet Kirsten Lutz adds, “We really try and focus on studying current events. The cadets who make it on the team have proven they are already strong in the SAT/ACT subjects.”

The national competition took place at the start of their trip, from June 22 to June 23. Although the Griffins were excited to advance to nationals, team members were also anxious. “I was extremely nervous during the competition,” says Paige Sackman. “I didn’t even think I could answer questions because I was so nervous…” Lutz tapped into her knowledge of body language in order to help her team gain confidence. “Prior to every round I would lead the team in high power poses, which are proven to boost confidence. The high power poses definitely helped us get in the right mind set for each round,” she says.

The championship questions differed greatly from the first two rounds. “The questions were really random, so you had no idea what to expect,” says Lutz. “Some questions related to math and science, others regarded literature or mythology.” Category rounds ranged from hashtags, to French phrases, to the history of African colonialization and beyond.

After answering many questions, the Griffins entered the quarterfinals with an impressive 8-1 record. The team advanced to the semifinals, missing the finals round by only 10 points.

When they discovered they’d received third place in the nation, they were elated. Because of the way the seating was assigned at the awards ceremony, the team had a feeling they would take third; although, their placement wasn’t confirmed until announced. “At that point we had a hunch [because of seating], but I was still so happy because we tried so hard and did so amazing,” says Sackman. Lutz adds, “Our goal was to give it our all, while still having fun, and I truly believe that was the key to our success.”

Aside from the competitive aspect, the cadets were also able to make friends from throughout the country. “It was wonderful to meet the other teams,” says Janicki. “All of the cadets were so wonderful and friendly, as well as fair in the competitions.”