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Follansbee’s tops in math contest

March 19, 2011
By WARREN SCOTT, Staff writer

FOLLANSBEE - A team from Follansbee Middle School placed first among about a dozen competing in the West Virginia MathCounts competition last weekend.

The team was comprised of Jakob Heilman, Abbi Yachini, Dalton Minger, Jakob Heilman and Antonio Pizzuti, who were among nearly 100 pupils who competed as teams or individuals in the the state competition held March 12 at Braxton County Middle School.

As the Follansbee Middle School MathCounts A Team, the five placed first among teams competing at the regional competition held Feb. 19 at Belmont Technical College.

Article Photos

Warren Scott
COMING?UP?WITH?A?VICTORY – The Follansbee Middle School MathCounts A Team placed first at the West Virginia MathCounts competition last weekend. Its members are, from left, front: Abby Yachini and coach Erin Ankrum; and back: Dalton Minger, Jakob Heilman and Antonio Pizzuti.

In addition, Heilman placed fifth, classmate Chris Beaman placed eighth, and Minger placed 10th as individual competitors.

Erin Ankrum, their coach, noted it's the first time a team from Follansbee Middle has placed first at the state level since the school began participating in the competition, though it has had four students go on to participate in the national level as individual competitors.

The four are: Clarence Black, who participated twice; Joey Palcic, Stephen Mapes and John Allen Zumpetta.

Unfortunately, the current MathCounts competitors won't be going on to the national event because its participants are determined through their individual scores at the state level.

While the A Team ranked first collectively, the scores of three pupils from Suncrest Middle School of Morgantown and a pupil from John Adams Middle School of Charleston put them in the running for the national title.

It's still possible that Heilman could compete nationally, however, because as the individual who placed fifth, he has been designated an alternate.

As coach of the winning team, Ankrum was invited to lead the four state winners. But she said she declined when she learned Heilman wasn't likely to go on to the national event.

None of the Suncrest or John Adams pupils indicated they had a conflict that would prevent them from going to the national event, which will be held at Walt Disney World in May, she said.

Ankrum said she is very proud of the student's performance, adding it was one of her happiest moments as a teacher.

"They were just the best. They were awesome," she said.

Ankrum said the five have spent much time before school, during lunch period and at home preparing for the regional and state contests.

And while they enjoyed bowling, swimming and dinner before the state competition, they also took two hours the night before to practice again.

The fast-paced math competition involves four rounds:

The Sprint Round, which calls for participants to solve 30 problems as individuals in about 40 minutes.

The Target Round, in which teams of two are given six minutes to apply such mathematical concepts as probability, statistics, linear algebra and polynomials to story problems.

The Team Round, in which teams of four work together to solve 10 problems in about 20 minutes.

The Countdown Round, a fast-paced segment conducted in a quiz show style, with pupils competing as individuals and ringing buzzers when they know the answer.

Ankrum said the competition requires participants to apply what they know about math to solving problems, and past Follansbee competitors have gone on to careers in engineering, medicine and law, among other fields.

Yachini said the event taught her and her classmates "to work as a team."

Asked if it required them to memorize mathematical concepts, she said, "We memorized formulas but everything else is pretty much thinking."

It's the second year for Heilman to compete in the state MathCounts competition.

He said last year he didn't perform as well, placing 14th as an individual on a team that placed seventh, and he was determined this year to do better.

Beaman described the contest as "fun" and said through their frequent contact, the five have gotten to know each other well.

Minger agreed, saying, "We supported each other and picked on each other at the same time."

Pizzuti said it was the first time he has competed at the state level, and he found it very exciting.

Ankrum noted Yachini and Beaman aren't done with math competitions this year, as they will be among Follansbee pupils competing in the West Virginia Math Field Day competition, a similar event, later this year.

(Scott can be contacted at

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