ROGERSVILLE — They didn’t come back with a world championship, but the Cherokee High School Robotics Team proved this past weekend in St. Louis they belonged on the world stage, ranking 13th overall out of 75 teams in their division.
Cherokee’s “Fellowship of the Springs” team earned an overall won-loss record of 7-3 in the first two days of competition, ranking 13th overall in their division, although they were tied for third with the best score in defense.
For the final day of three-team eliminations Cherokee found itself in a coveted “Alliance Captain” position as the eighth-seed out of eight alliances in the division elimination rounds.
That meant Cherokee was in a position to pick its two teammates and one alternate for the division elimination rounds.
Coach Jeff Hobbs said that in the division quarterfinals Cherokee opted sit out the first round of double eliminations in favor of allowing its alternate team an opportunity to play.
It was a sportsmanship move, allowing the alternate team a chance to play, but there was also strategy involved.
As the eighth seed, Cherokee’s alliance would meet the number one seed team in the quarterfinals, which was comprised of the top-two ranked teams in their division.
Hobbs noted that the alternate team they picked had previously eliminated one of those top teams in a qualifying round.
Unfortunately their luck wasn’t so good in the first round of quarterfinals.
Although Cherokee outscored it’s competitors by 20 points in the second round of double eliminations, that wasn’t enough to overcome the initial round deficit, and they were eliminated.
Team captain and senior Bryce Mullins said it was an experience he and his teammates will carry with them for their rest of their lives.
“To get to go to the world championship was amazing, and competing at the same level as some of the best teams in the world was better,” Mullins said. “And then we got to advance to the quarter finals in our division, which made it even better. At one point were ranked third in our division, and at the end of the first day we were ranked fifth.”
Mullins added, “I was a little upset that we didn’t advance further on the last day, because we felt like we could win the whole thing. But, to reach that point and make it into the quarterfinals, I was incredibly proud of the team, and everything we had done to get to that point. It was still a great experience and everybody had fun.”
Cherokee brought 16 team members to St. Louis, only four of whom are seniors.
Hobbs told the Times-News Monday he feels like the returning underclassman can utilize their experiences from this year, and build upon theses successes next year.
Competing int he world championships wasn’t a “once in a lifetime experience” for them, Hobbs said, but a “first in a lifetime experience.”
“I think we’ll be far better prepared next time,” Hobbs said. “Being an ‘alliance captain’ was a first for us. The underclassmen have seen what it takes to get there, and the amount of work that has to be done to get there.”
Hobbs added, “It’s important for upperclassmen to pass the knowledge on so that when we make advances, like we did this year, we’ve still got kids on the team next year ready to take the baton from the graduating seniors, and continue improving.”
Mullins admitted he was a little nervous about how a small town team from Rogersville would fare against world class competition.
But, as soon as the competition began, that nervousness evaporated as it became obvious that the “Fellowship of the Springs” belonged on the world stage.
“There was some teams that had a lot better production quality than us, but some of them have been doing this for 20 years, and there was a team there that brought 20 robots,” Mullins said. “Cherokee’s team has only existed for five years. But, there were a lot of teams there that we were on the same level as or above. It didn’t feel like we didn’t belong there, which is one thing I was afraid of. I really wanted to prove that our schools and our region is capable of doing world class work, and I think we did that.”
Mullins added, “I am hoping we (graduating seniors) helped pave the way for next year, so they can keep competing at this level every year.
Among the team members making the trip to St. Louis were:
• Seniors: Bryce Mullins, Team Captain; Samantha Cook, Art Team; and Brooks Robinson - Media Captain; and Kyleigh Ferguson, Business Captain.
• Juniors: Elizabeth Lawson, Business; Raiden Evans, Programming Captain; Luke Morgan, Lead Fabricator; Travis Behnke, Business and Build team; Donnie Kiser, Honor Guard and Build; Jared Taylor, Honor Guard andBuild.
• Sophomores: Erin Forgety, Build Captain; David Riggs, Build team; and William Carpenter, media.
• Freshmen: Jay Amin, programming; Aaron Perry, Art; and Rogan Russel, Build team.