“The Track Gang” Wins Rockland County Academic League Competition

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March the Second, in the year of Our Lord, two-thousand and seventeen. A day that will live in infamy.

The Rockland County Academic League Invitational is by far the most competitive high school level trivia event Northeast of the Rio Grande; with questions ranging from the subject matter of the popular 90’s television program, “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”, to the works of the finest playwrights of the 20th century. Nine teams were crowded into a modestly sized school library with as many cheese danishes, generic sodas, and pizza pies as their hearts desired. But on that day, everyone’s attention was fixed on one singular goal – victory.

Clarkstown South entered the library as “top-dogs”, the #1 seeded team, feared for their quick reflexes on the buzzer and knowledge of science and mathematics. They carried themselves with a certain modesty that was interpreted as anything but. In sharp contrast, lower seeded teams such as North Rockland and East Ramapo brought a certain lightness to the atmosphere, simply realizing how lucky they were to be in the presence of Gods, and behaving as such. Let it be known that it was from these two teams that Nanuet received the most praise.

The Nanuet team entered the competition in glorious fashion, covered head to toe in black and white Adidas branded track suits. The team was promptly and appropriately dubbed “The Track Gang.” Marching in single file everywhere they went, performing improv comedy and engaging in a rigorous public display of stretching are just a few examples of the Track Gang’s antics that day. Never in their wildest dreams did they expect to leave as champions.

Each member of the Track Gang’s starting four brought something to the table as an academic team. Desmond Lombardo: seasoned expert in all things pop culture, with specialties in film history and professional basketball. Joel Thomas: Solely on the team to answer Bible questions, body related trivia, and math problems; all of which he rarely answered incorrectly. Carlos Prats: Team Captain, Moral Leader, “The King”, whose miscellaneous knowledge base was acquired as a result of watching far too much informational television. And finally Lukas Ruschack: “The Ringer”, the man guaranteed to know the answers to the most obscure, arbitrary questions. He would later be named unofficial MVP after a short deliberation amongst the other three starters.

For Nanuet, the day started with a belly full of quartered bagels, juice from concentrate, and low expectations. “We were just hoping to get past the first round,” Prats would later explain to anyone who would listen. What was to follow would be described as the Cinderella Story of the century.

The First Round was to be played against Tappan Zee, the second seeded team in the tournament. As the loser with the highest point totals would advance to the semifinals along with the winners of the 3 first rounds, the number 5 seeded Nanuet was just hoping for a close and high scoring match. Instead, they won. The next round against North Rockland was an easy victory. And so, Nanuet, a team who has not advanced past the first round in 4 years, found themselves in the semi-finals.

The Heroes watched the Pearl River vs. Clarkstown South match keenly, knowing that they would encounter the winner in the semi-final. It was either face the #1 seed, or a team who the Track Gang had lost to earlier in the season in a close, 3 round match. Low and behold, Pearl River defeated the #1 seed. The giant had been slain.

The Track Gang’s stomachs began to turn, as their vessels could not contain both the enormous amounts of cheesy pizza, and the growing nervousness of actually having a chance to win the invitational. “As long as there is a question about the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, we got this!” Lombardo said jokingly. “Haha” responded the rest of the Gang. The Gang was determined to crush the Pirates in a duel their advisor, Jack Gremli, dubbed “The Little Brown Pocket Protector”. It was a joke the man had made many times before in matches against Pearl River, but this time his words carried much weight in the ears of the three starting seniors. Realizing that this would be the last time they would hear the very same joke after four years, their nervousness turned into determination. Suddenly, they realized they were two wins from becoming champions.

The match was a classic back and forth with small leads built on quick and precise toss up questions and responses, while no team could pull away as a result of the obscure 20 point bonus questions. That was, until, upon answering a toss up question correctly, Nanuet was prompted to answer this bonus question: “Answer the following based on the popular show, ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'” The team went absolutely mental. Had it been a sign? How could a joke Lombardo made not only 10 minutes ago turn into the team’s golden opportunity to pull ahead? Did this mean that God does indeed exist? All valid questions. After answering the bonus correctly (obviously), the Track Gang set the foundation for a lead from which Pearl River could not recover. They won, and they were in the finals.

The finals of the competition proved to be a storybook ending. As the “Gang” rose to take their seats, they found themselves met with the loudest applause any of them had ever heard. Every team was rooting for them, every team except Suffern. Facing off against Suffern, the Gang was initially nervous. Rather, all were nervous, but one: “The Ringer”. Ruschak went off in the finals answering most every question, leaving the spectators and his teammates baffled. In the end, it was no competition at all, Nanauet had won by over 100 points. Nanuet, the same team who would have been happy to advance past the first round, had won its first academic league invitational championship in 40 years.

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“The Track Gang” Wins Rockland County Academic League Competition