CVU shines in sports for the mind

CVU’s state championship Scholars Bowl team poses after its win in Montpelier on March 26.

Students win Scholars Bowl state title, bound for nationals in Atlanta

Champlain Valley High School’s Scholars Bowl team capped its season March 26 with a Vermont State Championship win at Montpelier High School. The team won three playoff matches to claim its second-ever title and first in 15 years.

The team won a quarterfinal match over host Montpelier and then faced off against Hanover in the semifinals. CVU got out to a quick lead and finished strong to win convincingly, setting up a final showdown with South Burlington.

South Burlington had defeated CVU three times earlier in the season. However, this time CVU was able to get out to a big early lead, and hold off two comeback attempts to win the match and the championship, 385-315. The team finished the season with a 32-4 record.

Scholars’ Bowl is a question-and-answer quiz competition, similar to Jeopardy! but featuring teams of high school students and with a heavier focus on the academic curriculum.

“This was truly one of the best sets of matches I’ve ever seen one of my teams play in 27 years of coaching,” said CVU coach John Bennett. “We faced top notch competition and only briefly trailed once in any of the three matches.”

Leading the way was CVU’s all-time leading Scholars Bowl scorer Evan McMahan, who finished his high school career with 1,136 questions answered. The team’s seven other players — Aidan Devine, Ben Fox, Jake Potter, Kai Jenkins-Mui, Ava Rohrbaugh, Keaton St. Martin, Elias Leventhal — contributed with clutch answers and key support.

By winning the state championship, CVU earned the right to represent Vermont in the High School National Championships held in Atlanta over Memorial Day weekend.

“This championship was a team effort all around,” Bennett said. “I am especially glad that we could win this for Dan Shepardson’s final year as activities director, as he has greatly supported Scholars Bowl in many ways over the years. I also want to recognize the great assistance I have received this year and in past years from Kiran McCormick, Chris Smith and Katie Mack, helping to coach the team and read questions at events … This is a championship for our whole school district.”

The Scholars Bowl is made possible by the support of the Vermont-NEA, the tournament’s title sponsor for more than 25 years.

’Hawks win state robotics competition; trip to World Championships in Texas up next

The CVU RoboHawks pose with their award-winning robot last Saturday at the state robotics championship.
Observer courtesy photos

On Saturday, March 19, the Champlain Valley Union High School RoboHawks competed in, and won, the Vermont State FTC Robotics Championships. First Tech Challenge (FTC) is an international robotics program that more than 30,000 students worldwide participate in.

There were 16 teams and robots at this year’s Vermont state competition, including, for the first time, CVU’s younger team: JV Redhawks Robotics.

Both CVU teams made it to the elimination round. A semifinal match featured CVU’s JV team against the varsity team — and the JV team almost won.

The RoboHawks — in an alliance with a team from U-32, Bubbert Innovations — made it to the finals to battle an alliance from South Burlington and Essex in a best-of-three. The RoboHawks won the first match, but lost the second. The tiebreaking third match was a squeaker, with CVU just barely winning 138-124 in one of the more exciting finals in recent history.

As part of the competition, the students are judged on their design, community outreach and teamwork, with judges focusing on teams’ ability to clearly and effectively record and communicate their design thinking and process. Judges also look at their ability to be inclusive and support the greater community of STEM learners, and their ability to promote engineering and robotics in their communities. 

The RoboHawks won the prestigious Inspire Award, given to the team that best embodies the spirit of the competition.

With the win, the CVU RoboHawks secured a place in the FIRST Robotics World Championships happening in Houston, Texas, in April. The event will attract teams from all over the U.S. and the world. This is the first time the CVU Robohawks have qualified for the World Championships.

The event is an opportunity for CVU students to be able to see, work with and share their passion with some of the best high school engineering students from all over the world and discuss the multitude of inventive, clever and inspirational solutions to the same problems they have worked to solve.

Team members include Wolfie Davis, Lindsay Beer, Jared Kennedy, Sam Yager, Crawford Phillips, Jack Gourlay, Charlotte Tyler and Violet Fennern. JV team members include Evan Mead, Jonas Hemmett, Joe Jacobs, James Haines, Jacob Graham and Sean Menard.

Team sponsors are Kennedy Excavation and NDI. The team is raising funds for its trip to Houston. Visit or email the team coach Olaf Verdonk at if you are interested in donating.