Math team takes second in state

Adam Larck TimesNewspapers
The Morton High School math team finished second at the state contest on May 4. Pictured above, front row, left to right, are Coach Lucas Allen, Allison LaHood, Kelsey Dahms, Hope Kruzick, Elizabeth Rhode, Madi Thomas, Gaya Nersesyan, Tori Moffa, Kateri Hawley, Kayla Smock, Maria Baker, Alysse Berry, Maria Feucht and Coach Joel Zehr. Back row, left to right, Nick Austin, Jeffery Rajkumar, David Rhode, Nick Monferdini, Jackson Roach, Gabe Laughlin, Matt Lyons, Ryan Smock, Matt Lauer, Cody Wirth, Reece Wilmert, Adam Messer, Tanner Corum and Mitchell Grant. Not pictured, Reid Butler, Ben Willett and Meghan Drew.

On May 4, the Morton High School math team competed at the Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics math team state championships at the University of Illinois where they finished second in the state.

This was the fourth consecutive year that Morton was the top public school in the state, meaning the class of 2013 never lost to a public school throughout their four years at MHS.

“We have four seniors that did math team all four years: Gaya Nersesyan, Tori Moffa, David Rhode and Matt Lyons,” coach Lucas Allen said. “We’ve also been fortunate to pick up several other excellent members of the class of 2013 along the way: Ben Willett, Jackson Roach and Jeffrey Rajkumar. Every year, we say how difficult it’s going to be to replace our seniors, but it’s especially true this year. They have never settled for anything less than excellence. They are hard workers as well as great thinkers.

“Coming off winning the Algebra II event at state as juniors, I was very confident that they’d perform at that level again as seniors, and they did, winning the Pre-Calculus event this year.”

The team finished second overall, behind Univers=ity of Chicago Lab School. Last year, the team finished in first.

“For the last few years, most of our focus has been on the University of Chicago Lab School,” Allen said. “They are one of the best schools in the state by any measure, and they won the math team state competition for five straight years from 2007-11 until we upset them last year. They returned to the top spot this year with one of the highest scores we’ve ever seen.

“We also knew we were going to get a tough challenge from Lake Forest Academy. They actually were ranked second coming out of regionals (we were third), but we felt like we could catch them at state. They held the second spot all day at state until the final event, the relays. The relays have been a real strength for our team the last few years, and another great performance on that event again this year allowed us to move up to No. 2 right at the wire.”

The team brought home trophies in many team events:

• First — Pre-Calculus

• First — Junior-Senior relay (relay 1)

• Second — Calculator team

• Third — Junior-Senior 8-person

• Fourth — Algebra II

• Fourth — Junior-Senior two-person (Tori Moffa and Nick Austin)

• Sixth — Algebra I

• Sixth — Oral team (Gaya Nersesyan and Kelsi Dahms)

• Seventh — Geometry

• Eighth — Freshman-Sophomore relay (relay 2)

• Ninth — Junior-Senior relay (relay 2)

• Tenth — Freshman-Sophomore eight-person

“There are a few factors that have been important to our success,” Allen said. “First, at MHS we make sure our kids are among the best trained in the state on graphing calculators, which gives our students a real advantage at math team competitions as well as standardized tests like the ACT and AP calculus tests. Second, we’ve established a culture of competition among the math team kids at Morton. That leads to an atmosphere where they treat practices seriously, and where older students show the younger students the tricks and strategies they’ve used successfully at previous competitions.

“Third, there has been a group effort from the math department. As assistant coach, Joel Zehr has done a phenomenal job. This couldn’t have been done by just one coach. The rest of the department has also really embraced using the math team competitions as a way to address improvements that need to be made to our MHS curriculum. Those improvements have benefited all MHS students, not just those on the math team.”

 Several members of the team also brought home individual awards.

 • Tori Moffa — Fourth place, Pre-Calculus

• Jackson Roach — Fifth place, Pre-Calculus

• Matt Lyons — Sixth place, Pre-Calculus

• Nick Monferdini — Ninth place, Algebra II

• Matt Lauer — Tenth place, Geometry

This season was the sixth consecutive year the team has won the regional championship, and fourth consecutive year as the top public school in the state.

 The regional competition was held Feb. 23 at Illinois Central College, where Morton held off Normal U-High to claim the championship.