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Girls find strength in numbers

Girl times three equalled victory for the Bainbridge High School Math Club, at a statewide competition last week in Spokane.

The all-girl sophomore team of Ari Clark, Rebecca Ferrell and Allana Pritchard led the club to first place in state, beating other sophomore teams at the first-ever “Trimathalon” competition.

The event was held Jan. 19 at Lewis and Clark High School.

All of the competitors did well, math teacher and club coach Joy Namtvedt Best said, and Ben Stuart placed first out of all seniors.

“But the sophomores overall made a really powerful team,” she said. “This is the only all-girl team I’ve coached, and they are incredible.”

The fact that they made an unusual triumvirate was not lost on the team.

“I think people were a little surprised when three girls got up to get the trophy,” Ferrell said.

The girls have not been without mentors and supporters, though.

Boosters like Liz Bracken, mother of freshman math club competitor Andy Bracken, has bolstered the girls’ pride in their achievements.

“She is good at math,” Pritchard said. “She’s proud of us, and that’s helpful, to have a woman backing us.”

The club members reinforce each other as well.

“Our team had so much more spirit than the other schools,” Pritchard said. “We really cheered each other on.”

The Trimathalon was structured to focus on first-time competitors and young high schools students, with tests consisting of questions similar to those asked in the classroom.

Only the last few problems on each test required “original and creative thought,” Best said.

BHS teams added up winning points in events like the “marathon,” consisting of a 100-question test students took in 100 minutes, and the “hurdles” that earned triple points for every fourth correct answer.

Freshmen and sophomores were given the advantage of larger teams to split the questions, while seniors took tests alone.

While the three sophomores describe themselves as diverse, with friends in different high school social groups, they also provide mutual support.

“Over the year, you get close to the people in the Math Club,” Pritchard said. “You have something in common.”

The sophomores say they gravitated to math in grade school, an interest reinforced by success.

“I remember learning multiplication tables faster than other kids.” Ferrell said, “I’ve always liked math a lot more than writing.”

Math will play a role in the future of at least two members of the sophomore team. Clark wants to become a race engineer and design fast cars.

Ferrell isn’t sure what her college major will be, but thinks it will be math or science-related.

Pritchard, whose father, Bruce is the cartoonist for the Review, says she plans to go to art school.

Meanwhile, Math Club offers intellectual challenge, friendship and what Pritchard terms “certain other benefits.”

“Going to math competitions in Eastern Washington,” Pritchard said, “means we get to have massive snowball fights.”

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