AHS math competition team finishes second to rival Buchholz

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For the senior’s final state group picture, they kneel in front of the team’s accumulated trophies while the lower classman Mus, Alphas and Thetas stand behind them. (Photo submitted by Joanne Haner)

After four days of intense testing and dozens of hours spend practicing beforehand, Heritage’s math competition team finished in second place at the 2019 Florida Association of Mu Alpha Theta state convention.

In 2017, Heritage made school history by winning first the state and then national championships. In 2018, after winning the state competition by a narrow margin, Heritage’s Mu Alpha Theta (MAO) lost the national competition to rival Buchholz and spent this competition season trying to close the gap once more. Despite their efforts, they fell short of first place by 277.566 T-points.

For senior Vladyslav Oleksenko, co-president of the club and MAO competitor of four years, the state convention will fuel the competitors’ fire to win nationals. “We did feel quite disappointed and bitter and sad when we lost,” Oleksenko said. “But we can win, there’s no doubt about that. We did it throughout the season. It’s just that things did not go so well. We have to be prepared at nationals and be prepared for when things might go wrong.”

The nationwide organization of Mu Alpha Theta is hosting the national competition in Las Vegas July 14-19.

An unexpected loss in the Mu division coupled with a heavy loss in the Theta division led to the team’s demise. Freshman Elizabeth Zhu described what went wrong for her division, Theta.

“When we went to states we didn’t have the mindset of ‘we want to win.’ It was more the mindset of ‘we want to quality for nationals [individually],’” Zhu said. “After taking ciphering we just had a terrible mindset, and we had that mindset going into the individual test that we were going to fail it like we did the ciphering.”

The freshman thetas celebrate their first FAMAT state competition with two of the sponsors, Mr. Daniel Ariew and Mrs. Denia Fonseca. (Photo/Joanne Haner)

Most of the state attendees in Theta and Alpha had to keep up with their school work from their Competitive Algebra II or Competitive Precalculus classes in addition to completing their extracurricular math competition practice. Juniors and seniors taking AP Calculus and AP Statistics has to endure similar work loads. This proved too much for many of the young competitors.

Even though they did not win, the freshman still were able to enjoy the communal aspects of the club. “Another favorite moment was taking photos of everyone with their trophies and seeing how happy they are and being able to capture moments like that,” Zhu said, who is currently on yearbook staff and hopes to become historian of MAO next year. “It showed how happy everyone is when a school comes together to try to beat another school, Buchholz. You can see throughout the season what has happened and reminisce on those memories.”

Despite the rocky start to the competition, Oleksenko believed it was not all bad. “We had quite a few good performances the [second] day [of the competition]” he said. “I think we had the best relay performance from our school ever. We got a 98, and Buchholz got a 68.”

Senior co-presidents Saaketh Vedantam and Vladyslav Oleksenko do their traditional “hover hand” pose following the final award ceremony. (Photo/Joanne Haner)

Other positive improvements occurred, possibly as a result of a new regimented system of MAO homework leading up to the competition. Thirty competitors received top three awards, Freshman Philip Nenov won first place in the Theta topic of Functions with a perfect score, as did sophomore Saathvik Selvan in Alpha Complex Numbers. Junior Connor Gordon, who earlier this year won a spot to compete in Who Wants to Be a Mathematician (WWTBAM) and qualified for the United States American Math Olympiad (USAMO), received a second place in Probability and third place in Gemini. Perhaps most notably, co-president senior Saaketh Vedantam “swept,” meaning he won first place in every one of his individual categories.

Although the Buchholz math competition teacher, Mr. Will Fraser, is organizing the national competition, Oleksenko plans to turn their advantage against them. “They might feel that this will be any easy win. But we’re not letting them have an easy win. We’re going to get back stronger than ever.”

Results:

13First Place Individual Performances
10Second Place Individual Performances
7Third Place Individual Performances
74Individual Top Ten Performances  
Calculus Individual1st placeSaaketh Vedantam
Calculus Ciphering1st placeSaaketh Vedantam
Mental Math1st placeSaaketh Vedantam
Speed Math1st place
Saaketh Vedantam
Area & Volume 1st place
Saaketh Vedantam
Sequences & Series1st place
Saaketh Vedantam
Statistics1st place
Arnav Kumar
Theta Functions 1st place
Philip Nenov
Complex Numbers1st place
Saathvik Selvan
Trigonometry1st place
Saathvik Selvan
BC Calculus1st place
Vlad Oleksenko
Matrices & Vectors1st place
Jae Young Beck
Alpha Individual 1st place
Jae Young Beck
Analytic Geometry2nd placeAlexander Divoux
Matrices & Vectors2nd place
Alexander Divoux
BC Calculus2nd place
Andrew Ma
Probability 2nd place
Connor Gordon
Theta Equations &
Inequalities
2nd place
Corbin Diaz
Alpha Equations &
Inequalities
2nd place
Iris Lang
Circumference, Perimeter,
Area and Volume
2nd placeNicolas Fernandez-Baigun
Theta Functions 2nd place
Rohan Kumar
Calculus Applications2nd place
Shayaan Subzwari
Trigonometry2nd place
Vasisht Ganesh
Gemini 3rd placeConnor Gordon
Gemini 3rd place
Emily Namm & Connor Gordon
Limits & Derivatives3rd place
Gabriel Diraviam
Analytic Geometry3rd place
Jae Young Beck
Alpha Individual 3rd place
Jose Ramirez
Theta Logs & Exponents3rd place
Philip Nenov
Integration3rd place
Vlad Oleksenko
Sweepstakes2nd place
Calculus Bowl (4-person team)2nd place
Alpha Bowl (PreCalculus) (4-person team)2nd place
Theta Bowl (Algebra 2/Geometry) (4-person team)3rd place
Relay (3-person team)1st place
Hustle (4-person team)1st place
Statistics Bowl (4-person team)1st place

Olivia is a senior hailing from South Florida. In addition to newspaper, she has worked on the staff of Expressions Literary Magazine and is an editor of Spotlight Yearbook. Additionally, she is co-founder and co-editor-in-chief of Pressing the Future, an online international news organization. She has a passion for both journalistic and creative writing, but outside of the writing sphere she is a cross-country runner and social rights activist.

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