Bansal, Bailer lead academic team

Junior Varun Bansal and sophomore Brandon Bailer recently represented West Shore in the Commissioner’s Academic Challenge on April 19-22 at Walt Disney World. The two were selected to be a part of the district’s All-Star team based on their individual performance during the District Academic Tournament season.

“I actually wanted to do the Academic challenge in ninth grade, but I only heard after the admission had expired so the next year, I joined, and there was a ton of people there,” Bailer said. “I went to the district competition. I think I had the highest accuracy rate, with one wrong. The last few months, we met every Monday, and the coaches would usually bring Domino’s pizza and Coke.”

After the district competition, the team was picked and traveled to Orlando on April 19.

“I went up to the hotel room, and the first thing I noticed was that the T V wasn’t working so I called room service several times and found out that it wouldn’t be fixed until Friday afternoon. My specialty was humanities and social studies,” Bailer said.

While at Walt Disney World, the team competed against 15 of the largest schools in the Florida.

“I’m not a team player in that I interact with the rest of the team, but in that I really want our team to win. We were in the division round with Orange, Volusia, Polk and Pinellas counties,” Bailer said. “I was hoping to get first or second so that we would to go to the consolation round on Friday, and we could spend time at the parks, but we got fourth place.”

The consolation round was the next day, and Bailer  had the highest accuracy rate for his team in the round, answering seven out of seven questions correctly.

“I was apprehensive about the loss, and I couldn’t really sleep,” he said. “We met in the morning to make a strategy. [The coach] said we should probably be more aggressive this time. The time came, and I was in there for the first two rounds. I did pretty good, but the thing that I was irritated about was that I kept getting cut off while trying to answer questions. My strategy was that I’d never answer a question unless I was absolutely sure that it was right. We were on a hot streak, and at a certain point, we actually managed to get over 200 points, and the other teams were in competition with about 150 points.”

After winning that round, the team visited the nearby theme parks.

“We went on a victory tour sort of to Epcot and some other parks,” Bailer said. “On Saturday, in the semifinals, we lost. Since we had the last few hours to ourselves, we went to the Magic Kingdom just in time for the fireworks, and it was very bright. We went on Space Mountain like twice, and it was one of the best rides they have there, but it was a little frustrating. The next morning we left.”

Bailer said he was proud of himself and his team and is looking forward to trying again next year.

“I did pretty good,” he said. “I was hoping we could get to the semifinals, and we did.”

By Danny Dolnik