Academic League finishes season following championship defeat

Academic League’s first game against San Dieguito in the North County championships on April 17 could’ve been anyone’s game.

But when it came time for the last toss-up question, San Dieguito buzzed in first. The alloted 35 minutes for the game were coming to an end and Westview only led by a small margin. This question would decide the outcome of the game. If San Dieguito got the full five points on this last question, they would  lead by just a point.

As San Dieguito deliberated, the timer sounded. The game was over before they could deliver their answers. The final score: 86-82.

That win pushed Westview to the semi-final round against Canyon Crest Academy, a team to whom they had previously lost.

“Since we had already lost to the two teams we knew we would be competing against, our expectations weren’t going to be incredibly high but we knew we had the potential to win,” team captain Kevin Yu (12) said.

Coming into the North County championship games, the team couldn’t help but think of last year’s win where they took home the San Diego County championship title.

“We came in thinking that we just wanted to do the best we could,” Raghu Tekumalla (12) said. “But in the back of our minds, we were kind of burdened by last year’s game.”

The score gap between CCA and Westview continued to widen throughout the semi-final round, and the win seemed more unattainable.

Westview’s tendency to buzz in first was detrimental to their score when they got the answer wrong, resulting in a point deducted from their final score.

In the end, it was a tough loss for the team. But for the seniors, it wasn’t the loss that resonated with them.

“I was sad not necessarily because we lost but because this was my last game,” Tekumalla said.

Their final Academic League game was bittersweet, regardless of the outcome.

“Even if we didn’t win there’s still at least the sense that it’s been four years and we’ve been doing something we loved,” Yu said.

The disappointment, however, was short-lived. After losing almost the entire varsity team from last year, the seniors learned to look past the bar that team set.

“I think we realized we were a different team from last year,” Tekumalla said. “It was kind of a hassle sometimes but it’s all worked out.”

Based on the struggles of that year, Academic League’s success was impressive in its own right.

“We did pretty well for having lost so many people. We adapted pretty well to it actually,” Tekumalla said.”

Taking on  the role of team captain this year, Yu had big shoes to fill.“I was in very much more of a supporting role last year because we had a team captain who was very good at Academic League,” Yu said. “So becoming captain was a pretty drastic change.”

This meant Yu had to go beyond the questions he found comfortable answering and buzzing on ones from all subjects and fields like art history and literature.

“Last year I was mostly answering science questions but this year I had the responsibility of answering almost anything,” Yu said. “As a captain, I now have at least some knowledge in all areas.”

According to Tekumalla, most Academic League teams consist of seniors and one to two juniors. Juniors made up almost half of this year’s team.

“Our grade didn’t have many participants so we had to bring in a lot of juniors,” Yu said. “I think that was pretty interesting just letting juniors have more opportunities to play.”

One of these juniors, Kevin Sun Chen (11), felt this pressure to perform.

After moving up to the varsity level, he was tasked with understanding concepts tailored for seniors.

“The difficulty went up a notch because most varsity competitors are supposed to be seniors,” Chen said. “So a lot of the material covered in varsity Academic League were things Westview students would traditionally know by their senior year like AP Government questions.”

But just like last year, the seniors feel confident that the new varsity members for next year can adapt to a team without them.

“Since JV and varsity practice together, it’s great seeing that dynamic grow and how good the JV kids really are,” Michael Jiang (12) said.

Even the freshman team, growing from 15 last year to 25 members this year, instills a sense of hope that the club has support for the years to come.

“We have a lot of strong underclassmen,” Tekumalla said. “They will be fine.”