Houghton sweeps UP Mathcounts competition

KINGSFORD?- The Upper Peninsula Mathcounts Chapter competition has taken place for 34 years, but Feb. 9 was the first time in recent memory a single team swept all six of the state championship qualifying spots. Despite a greater number of competitors and stronger competition, Houghton jumped out to an early lead in the individual competition and sealed their win in the team competition, according to a release from the team.

Nearly 50 Middle School Math stars from around the U.P. competed in Kingsford, the release said. Teams from Norway-Vulcan, Father Marquette, Kingsford, Menominee Catholic, Hancock, Jeffers, and Houghton competed for the right for one team of four and two other individuals to represent the U.P. at the State Mathcounts Championship.

At the end of the regional competition, Houghton (46.75 points) had bested seasoned teams from host Kingsford (16) and Norway-Vulcan (14.25). Fourth place Hancock brought a young team, which the release said will be “a force to reckon with” in the years to come.

“This was the hardest the competition has ever been, there was a step change in difficulty from last year,” stated Houghton coach John Gershenson.

The individual competition was a closer contest, the release said. Besides the four people on Houghton’s first team, the next two highest placed individuals would earn a berth to travel down to Grand Rapids.

As the top 10 in the individual competition entered the speed round to determine final placings, it was a close call. Three competitors tied for 10th, the release said, and the last spot in that round had to be decided by who had gotten the hardest problem correct in the previous round.

The final round began with 10th place finisher Carson Lagina of Norway losing in sudden death to Brian Knewtson of Houghton. Knewtson then topped Maggie Strelow of Kingsford (9th place) and, after a marathon matchup, Connor Bevan of Hancock (8th place). That left only Houghton team members to fight for the final placings.

Knewtson (6th place) narrowly bested sixth grader Linda Tang (7th place) on the last question before falling to Samuel Fang. Fang (4th place) went on to beat first time competitor Irene Ra (5th place) before falling to sixth grader Sonia Jin. Jin (3rd place) was then underpowered against her older sister Yvonne Wang.

The final pair came down to Wang and Shweta Pati, two competitors that have faced each other in the final round of math competitions many times.Pati bested Wang for a well-earned first place in the competition, the release said.

Pati, Wang, Jin, and Fang will be the team that represents the UP at states, with Ra and Knewtson going as individuals.

“We knew we had the deepest team that we have ever had at Houghton,” Gershenson stated, “and, to be honest, we were hoping to pull off all six spots. The team has worked hard this year for the chance to do well here today. It doesn’t happen without hard work.”

The UP Mathcounts completion is hosted by the Douglass Houghton chapter of the Society of Professional Engineers. Mike Drewyor and Kathy Kallio ran the event.