Morgan Park Academy’s Academic Challenge team continued its 30-year history of top-level success with a third-place finish at the 2021 state finals, including four individual medals in math and engineering graphics.

Competing in biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering graphics, English, math, and physics, 14 MPA students combined for 372.6 points, a total that measured up against not only their peers in the unboundaried Division 300, but many larger schools.

This is the team’s highest finish since winning the 2012 state championship, as well as the fourth straight year and fifth time in seven years with at least one top-5 individual state medalist.

On the medal stand this year were:

  • Merlin Mo, a junior who tied for third in math and placed fourth in engineering graphics, giving him five individual state medals in his three years of high school;
  • Frank Li, a senior who placed second in math; and
  • Tiffany Chen, a junior who tied for fourth in math.

MPA also got points across a variety of subjects from seniors Emmett Campbell, Andrew DeLaney, Sabrina Eng, Charles Hendon, Brycen Worsham, and Wayne Zhang; juniors Celia Echols and Maanav Kaistha; and sophomores Michaela Olimene, Arnav Paluri, and Shawn Shi.

“The team did a fantastic job this year with a true group effort,” said Upper School math teacher Diane Nead, who coaches the team. “We didn’t practice much because of the pandemic, but the students still performed very well thanks to the overall rigor of the MPA educational experience.”

Some of the same students also helped MPA’s math team shine in state competition last month, placing third in the region and 13th in the state in Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics (ICTM) testing.

The Academic Challenge is a competitive series of tests created by a team of academic experts and previously administered by the Worldwide Youth in Science and Engineering (WYSE) program in the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Headquartered now at Eastern Illinois University, the competition has offered challenging annual exams to Illinois high school students for local, regional, and statewide competition since 1975.

Morgan Park Academy’s team has been a regular state contender since the 1990s, winning Illinois Division 300 championships in 1997 and 2012.

Recent state medalists include top-5 finishers Jeffrey Eichinger in 2015; Tony Tang and Adam Wu in 2018; Tony, Merlin, Bryan Coronado, Ethan Deng, and Will Wei in 2019; and Merlin in 2020.