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SCHOOL - BRMS Robotics teams earn tickets to Worlds

Two teams from Bear River Middle School earned spots at the World Robotics Championships. Front from left: Josh Hayden, Chris Stokes, Jaxon Thompson, McKay Kowallis, Kasen Christensen. Back from left: Atticus Winward, Remington Sano, Tucker Nielson, Coaches Jeff Jensen and Preston Richey. Photo courtesy Krista Thompson

TREMONTON - March 8, 2023

They are at it again!

The Bear River Middle School Robotics teams headed to St. George on March 4, for the State Middle School VEX Robotics Championship and came away with not one, but two tickets to compete at Worlds. Pretty impressive since Utah is allocated just three slots at the top competition and BR Middle took two of them.

On top of that, H team, with team members Remington Sano (Captain), Jaxon Thompson, Atticus Winward and Tucker Nielson, earned the title of Tournament Champions with an undefeated record and won the Excellence award, double qualifying them for Worlds. Due to his outstanding work with his team, Sano was also named Student of the Year by the judges.

Coach Preston Richey said the Excellence award was no surprise to anyone. “They were clearly the top team there. I got a chance to talk to the Judge Advisor after the tournament and he made it clear that it wasn’t close.”

K team, with members Chris Stokes, Kasen Christensen, McKay Kowallis and Josh Hayden, got the Worlds invite by placing third in Skills, another level of judging. Because H team had already qualified and the other tournament winners, Vista’s Spark team, who had partners with the H team in the championship, were second on the Skills list, that left the third spot to whoever was third in line.

Richey said it was definitely a scramble to get that slot. “All season long, our K team has been a distant fourth in Skills, but we talked to them, and made it clear that their best shot at a Worlds ticket was to somehow get into third place. It was a bit of a long shot, as we knew Vista’s Vexna team would do everything they could to hold onto their third-place spot in Skills.”

Richey said K team got their three driving runs and their three autonomous runs in early and climbed into third place in the State.

“Then Vista’s Vexna and Effortless teams tried to catch them. They both thought they had a shot, and they did, but as they made successive runs, though they crept closer, they couldn’t quite catch K team. And so it happened, and against all odds a team of 8th graders who have only been together since the start of this school year, are going to Worlds.”

In the final battle it was Bear River’s best, H team and Vista’s best, Spark team against Bear River’s second best, K team, and their partner, Vista’s second best, Vexna team.

“As expected, H and Spark defeated K and Vexna rather handily, but it was still amazing to have an eighth-grade team-led alliance competing head-to-head for the State Championship in the Finals,” Richey said of K team’s accomplishment in their first year.

A key to the high placement at the annual competition was the amount of support the local teams received.

“It’s a long trip to St. George, but our amazingly supportive group of parents turned out in force,” Richey noted. “Every student had at least one parent there. There were also grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings. All told our group of eight students had a cheering section of 35.”

This is not the first time BR’s Robotics team have bested the competition at State but Richey said the battle to win is getting tougher each year.

“Weber Innovation won the Design Award, and Legacy Junior High won the Judges Award,” he said. “Having the awards spread around among the different schools like that is an indication of the growing strength and depth of the Middle School VRC program in Utah. The days when Bear River can win a Worlds spot just by showing up at the state tournament are over."

There is a good side to that, however, Richey added. "We welcome the challenge of these new competitors. It can only help to make us better.”

Coach Preston Richey is pictured with Remington Sano, who was named Student of the Year at the State Competition. He serves as captain of the champion H team from Bear Middle School. Photo courtesy Krista Thompson


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