What may seem like a code word actually referred to the team’s goal of bringing home a fifth consecutive title, essentially the thumb of the hand. Thursday, they brought home the thumb, making history in the process.
The Chargers’ Firelands Challenge team members broke the record for number of consecutive wins in the academic competition as they scored their fifth straight victory — not an easy achievement.
Edison faced off against Perkins and St. Paul high schools in the three-match Firelands Challenge championship, which wrapped up Thursday. In an exciting, nail-biting game, Perkins started the third match just seven points behind Edison’s cumulative score and ended up finishing the final round on top with 50 game points, four above Edison’s 46. St. Paul scored 39.
It’s the cumulative scores, though, that determines the champion, and Edison held on to the title with white knuckles, beating its strong opponent by just three points with a 155 cumulative score. The Pirates had 152 points and the Flyers had 109.
This represents Edison’s 30th top three placement in the competition’s 36-year history — 18 of which were first-place finishes. Edison also has had seven second-place finishes and five third. The Chargers have had two three-peat championships (1983-86 and 1995-98) but this is their first five-peat, and indeed a new record for the whole of Firelands Challenge.
“The primary dream and ultimate goal of the Edison High School academic team throughout the year was to bring home the ‘thumb” — and that dream was realized on March 9, 2017, when the 2016-2017 (team) earned its fifth straight championship title by defeating Perkins and St. Paul high schools in the championship series,” said 25-year adviser Shirley Wallrabenstein.
“We’re really excited and relieved,” said Edison team member and junior Shea Smith. “Just, wow. We were talking and it makes you really want to go and win a sixth.”
“I’m just happy we weren’t the ones to lose the streak,” senior Jacob Grant said with a laugh. “That would have been an awful way to be known.”
“It’s been a very eventful day,” said Edison’s team captain and senior Nathan Zettler, which may have been a bit of an understatement.
The team was given a special surprise sendoff, complete with the sheriff’s office and fire department parading them down the streets that were lined with parents, students, teachers and other community supporters, giving the team a proper start to the final step in the competition, letting them feel the support of the community that was “backing them every step of the way,” according to Wallrabenstein.
“There were many community supporters gathered on the square in Milan as the bus with our team proceeded around the square with sirens blaring,” she said, adding the unexpected gesture made her teary-eyed. “It was a wonderful surprise for our team — and we greatly appreciate the support for academics that is so evident within the Edison Local School District.”
Team member and Edison senior Nick Frederick agreed.
“I think it shows the quality of Edison’s program overall,” Frederick said. “We’re able to balance academics and athletics and succeed at both. Our school supports us in academics as much as it supports us with athletics. It makes me proud to go to Edison.”
Edison also is celebrating athletic success this school year. Its wrestling team won a state dual title and it also has six state qualifiers for the sport. Edison saw its football team advance to the state semifinals for the second straight year and the boys’ basketball team has a sectional title and is playing for a district crown Saturday afternoon. And, not to be overlooked, the girls’ golf team won the Division II state championship in the fall.
“These are the ones that make the program work,” Wallrabenstein said. “It’s their willingness to work hard and push themselves. I’m really proud of them. I’m blessed to have worked with this group of students.”
The students all agreed “it couldn’t have been done without Mrs. Walley.”
Perkins and St. Paul expressed similar sentiments about their advisers.
“We’re pretty happy with how things went (Thursday),” said St. Paul co-captain Will Ceccoli. “It was nice to have this match end as a much closer game than our first two matches. We really thank our advisers for that and we also switched up our team members for the bottom half of the game and they seemed much more relaxed.”
“I regret nothing,” added Perkins co-captain and senior Nick Windeau.
“I feel like this just helped to prove even more how supportive of a student body we have, a student body who unites behind us,” Windeau said. “This makes me proud to be Perkins. … But out of everyone on the team, I don’t think our advisers get enough credit for everything that they’ve done. I mean they’re the ones that have almost literally drug us to this point. They’re the backbones of the team and the pedestals on which we stabilize ourselves.”