By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
Hays Middle School's eighth-grade scholars bowl team just had finished an incredible season, and team members were helping clean up after their own tournament Monday.
They were minutes away from being honored at the awards ceremony when Brendan Chapman dipped his chin and shook his head in the hallway.
"Four first-place medals over here," he said, holding out his right hand in demonstration of his team's season.
"And a second-place one here," he added, nodding toward his left hand.
Not a bad showing, one most teams gladly would take.
But expectations were high this season for the group, which saw perfection slip from its grasp with a slim 10-point loss in the third round to Russell-Ruppenthal.
So it was understandable some team members might be disappointed. But were the coaches?
"Definitely not," said Dave Bernasconi, a co-coach of the Falcons along with Mary Jo Chambers.
Bernasconi has been coaching middle school quiz bowl and scholars bowl teams for many years, and he said "this one is probably the closest" that has come to an undefeated season.
And following the loss to Ruppenthal, Falcon coaches and parents witnessed another admirable trait from their team -- resilience.
The Falcons bounced back to win their last four matches and claim the silver medals.
"Forty wins and that one loss," Chapman said, his voice trailing off.
Classmates joining Chapman on this year's eighth-grade squad were Blade Goering, Lacey Gregory, Henry Jiang, Madison Karlin and Mark Schuckman.
Thomas More Prep-Marian Junior High gave its fellow HMS team a shot at the gold medals by defeating Ruppenthal.
But that was the only loss on the day for the Russell team, which tied HMS with a 6-1 record. Ruppenthal then won the first-place medals with the head-to-head match-up tiebreaker.
TMP's eighth-grade team also lost on a tiebreaker as the Monarchs, Larned and Colby all finished with identical 4-3 records and tied for third. Colby took home the bronze medals by winning the points tiebreaker.
Both local seventh-grade squads medaled.
TMP posted a perfect 7-0 record to claim the championship in that division, while HMS was third with a 5-2 mark, and Ruppenthal won the silver medals with a 6-1 record.
"That was their first championship, so they were very excited," Carol Brull, scholars bowl coach at TMP Junior High, said of her seventh-graders.
Because she has 11 students on the seventh-grade team, Brull has been switching team members, looking for the right match.
She might have found it Monday.
"That was the first time I had that particular group together. It obviously was a pretty good group," she said of the combination of Paul Brull, Logan Olmstead, Sheldon Weber, Dylan Werth and R.J. Whitmer.
While Monday's meet was the season finale for HMS, TMP will compete several times this semester, beginning with a meet at Dodge City-Sacred Heart on Feb. 20.