In my last blog, I talked about how my students and I prepared for the 2013 Super Nationals in Nashville, Tennessee, April 5-7, 2013. I want to start off by saying I am very proud of the team I coach, Catalina Foothills High School - which finished 3rd overall in a highly competitive Championship section of the event. This marks the 10th consecutive year that Catalina Foothills finished in the Top 10 in the country, and the second straight year that they finished in the Top 5. I am really proud of our team. Special thanks to the 15!! students from the high school that went to Nationals (in grade order): Steven Pennock, Justin Arnold, Matt Gross, Bryan Hu, Kinsleigh Wong, Derek Chen, Josh Pennock, Udai Singh, Hugh Fox, Rohan Mittal, Nicolas Johnston, Sumhith Aradhyula, Aiya Cancio, Patrick Froehlich, and Amber Fox.
I have to tell you however that our team was really disappointed that we were unable to win the National Title this year. Every year, Foothills is in the hunt for the National Title and each student who attends Foothills seeks to repeat our previous successes. Last year, we finished a mere half-point out of first, with a clutch last round performance, only to come up short. Our expectations were higher this year because we were all a year better and had not lost much from the previous team. Because Foothills has been such a successful high school program since 2005, winning a total of ten national titles (not including blitz), the students come in with high expectations each year.
When a team is used to winning on a regular basis, you definitely can get spoiled and lose perspective. I particularly remember the year 2009 when one of my players, who was on a stacked team that won High School Nationals the year before, expressed some disbelief that going to Nationals that year was not too important because "we can't win." I responded, just as I said to our team following this year's Nationals, that finishing in the top 10 in the country (and finishing 3rd this year for that matter), is a huge honor. You cant always win every time you go out there!
This year we were lead by sophomore Bryan Hu, who is now rated over 2300, who finished with 6/7 for the second consecutive year, and senior Steven Pennock who defeated a 2100 in the last round to finish with 5/7. Both Bryan and Steven are avid chess.com players, and both use the tactic trainer extensively and play online a lot. I think the tactic trainer helped both of them significantly – and both happen to be the most active on chess tactic trainer of anyone on Foothills High School chess team. Yes, that is a plug to use tactic trainer on chess.com!!!
I want to give a special shout out to my two seniors, Justin Arnold and Steven Pennock. These guys are best friends and have pushed each other ever since they attended middle school, which continued throughout high school. Both have had great and tragic Nationals. Justin drew paired up in the last round last year, which gave us a chance to win Nationals. Steven, after a disasterous performance in 2012, bounced back with a great performance this year.
It is so hard to say goodbye to seniors generally speaking but both of these guys are gonna be missed next year. Both have and will always have a special place in my heart. I doubt whether I would stayed in coaching if it had not been for these two special students!
I leave you with a quote from Dr. Seuss used by one of my seniors that refers to the awesome ride that each of them had at Catalina Foothills – and it really gives perspective to what being on a team is all about.
“Don’t cry because it’s over, Smile because it happened.”