Owls Top State Math Competition

What was needed for the Owls to bring home a state championship from the 2023 Mu Alpha Theta State Convention and Math Competition?  Intense preparation, sure. But other factors – Nerf guns, late night pizza in the hotel, two stops at Buc-ee’s Travel Center, and basketball pickup games – cannot be ruled out.

Competing in this event for the first time since 2007, the Owls came away with nine top-3 awards including the Overall Sweepstakes. In the Math Bowl, two Owl teams met in the finals.
“Once our B team defeated White Station’s A team while our A team was simultaneously defeating White Station’s B team in the Math Bowl, we knew we had a good shot at winning the entire competition,” freshman Albert Ding said.

The results added up to MUS domination of the competition:
  • First Place Overall Sweepstakes (Overall Champions)
  • First Place Interschool Competition
  • First Place Math Bowl – Senior Jeffrey Liu, junior Gabe Chen, sophomore Alan Cheng, and freshman Albert Ding
  • First Place Chalk Talk Algebra II – Freshman Ethan Zhao
  • First Place Ciphering PreCalculus – Freshman Albert Ding
  • First Place Speed Math Calculus – Senior Jeffrey Liu
  • Second Place Math Bowl – Junior Bryan Ding, sophomores Joephen Chen and Rushil Komeravelli, and freshman Ethan Zhao
  • Second Place Individual Algebra II – Freshman Ethan Zhao
  • Third Place Individual PreCalculus – Freshman Albert Ding
Sophomores Luke Akers, Wills Frazer, Kushal Patel, and Joey Paul rounded out the MUS contingent.

The winding road to this state convention started in 2020 with a bad feeling. “It’s true, I felt bad for our mathletes,” Mathematics Department Co-chair Darin Clifft said. “We had five guys who had qualified for the state MathCounts competition, and then COVID hit. So, a couple of years later when the invitation for the Mu Alpha Theta State Convention showed up in my email and did not conflict with Spring Break, I thought it would be a great opportunity for our guys to showcase those pent-up talents.” 

However, the competition had evolved over the years, leaving the Owls at a disadvantage. They didn’t have a store of knowledge about the revamped contests or any up-to-date materials.

“All we had to study were a couple of tests from 2007, while we knew the other schools could have been accumulating old tests for the past 16 years,” Instructor in Mathematics Nancy Gates said. “In desperation, I gathered a few national tests, and Mr. Clifft found some from Florida, so that is what we used to study.”

Gates and Clifft organized students for the various competitions, and they held practice sessions outside of school hours.

Mathematics Department Co-chair Phillip Stalls and Clifft then drove the team to Hardin Valley High School and coached them through the competition. They faced teams from across the state, including perennial powerhouses White Station, Farragut, and Oak Ridge High Schools. 

Stalls said the future looks bright for next year’s prospects. “With 11 of the 12 team members returning next year, the MUS mathletes will enter the 2024 competition as the odds-on favorite,” he said. “Needless to say, no one thinks Mr. Clifft will have bad feelings about next year’s competition.” 

Senior Jeffrey Liu summarized the competition this way: “It’s great to be an MUS Owl, and it’s great to finish my senior year as a champion.”