ALBANY -- The longtime rivals were within 10 points of each other at the halfway point of the final round.
Unbeaten Robert A. Cross Middle Magnet School was leading Merry Acres Middle 50-40 Thursday afternoon with five questions remaining during the annual Dougherty County School System Academic Bowl.
Even with Merry Acres winning six of the last nine county titles, Robert Cross team members were able to expand their narrow lead and pull away for a 115-65 victory. Robert Cross went 5-0 in the seven-team competition, including a 150-90 quarterfinal win.
Albany, Dougherty International, Radium Springs and Southside middle schools, along with Albany Early College were the other participants. It was the first year Albany Early College had competed. The event was sponsored by The Albany Herald.
"We've won before," Robert Cross co-captain Dillon Notz said. "Last year, they (Merry Acres) took the trophy from us. We had practices every Tuesday and Thursday for about eight-nine weeks before this, and it looks like our hard work paid off."
Fellow eighth-grader and team member Sarieon Evans said the closeness of the final round caused her to have jitters.
"My heart is beating fast," Sarieon said. "I'm really happy because they won last year. I'd like to thank (coaches) Ms. (Ethelene) Kimber and Mrs. (Stephanie) Hart."
The students weren't the only one's struggling with being tense. A few minutes after the win, Kimber admitted to still being nervous.
Merry Acres' Thomas Langstaff said he could tell Robert Cross had grabbed the momentum near the end of the match.
"We got hesitant on the last five questions," Thomas said. "As we worsened, they got better."
Merry Acres eighth-grader Radhika Patel said the quarterfinal loss to Robert Cross possibly started to play into the minds of her teammates.
"After being beat by them in the first round, our self-confidence was a little hurt," Radhika said. "But, I think, we tried our best and we'll see them at regions."
In the double-elimination tournament, Merry Acres, which already had that earlier loss, would have had to defeat Robert Cross twice at the end to claim the Christine Blaylock Cup.
Robert Cross, Merry Acres, third-place Southside and fourth-place Radium each earned berths to the regional Academic Bowl on Jan. 9 at Colquitt County High School.
Besides Notz and Evans, other Robert Cross team members included co-captain Corey Lovett, Suhani Patel, Alexander Lewis, Ed Belocura, Tanner Stumpe, Nathan Alligood, Dominique Riggins, Malcolm Danmola, Lindneshia Hudson, Brandon Sibley, Malik Walker, Tanaka Makuvaza and Chelsea Williams. Joshua Fix and Patti Thornhill also helped coach the team.
Captain Mark Pickett, Emerald Robinson, Chelsea Lee, Cody Hughes, Jack Plowden, Steven Feng, Lane Hatcher, Adam Landi and Diane Tran were the other Merry Acres team members. The team was coached by Casondra Gosha and Alshrenthia Cutliff.
The Dougherty County School System Academic Bowl has been
conducted since at least 1987.