By Sim Ramirez
Special To The Herald
STARKVILLE – Water Valley School District walked away with some impressive hardware to adorn the hallowed halls of our schools at the Mississippi Scholastic Chess Association State Team Championships this past weekend at Mississippi State University. Of the four divisions entered, Water Valley returned with three awards for their standard-setting chess performances.
Davidson Elementary School came away with a second place award for the K-1 Division, a second place for the K-3 Division, while the combined efforts of Davidson Elementary and Water Valley Junior High (grades 6 through 8) were able to come away with a fifth place trophy.
The K-1 division was a small cut-throat group of only four players with constant battles within close quarters with no escape. Yet the 2014 defending state champ, Water Valley’s and Davidson Elementary’s own, Matt Surrette was able to finish on the podium once again with a second place victory for himself and for Davidson Elementary. In an unusual and sweet decision, the tournament directors decided to give the team trophies to the individuals and the individual trophies to the teams which resulted in Matt Surrette being awarded with a trophy taller than himself. A joyful, heart-warming scene of these tiny titans with their cumbersome, yet well earned, trophies awarded for their tenacity and their arduous campaigns.
The K-3 Division was represented by Laine Burns, Madison Davis, Nate Dunn, Dylan Gnagie, and Jenna Trusty, a unit of rookies and veterans in the chess wars of scholastic competition. This scrappy and determined group of students came away with an awe-inspiring trophy for their outstanding display of chess tactics and strategy. This cadre of take-no-prisoners combatants left Starkville with a second place trophy gleaming in the rain-filled, cloudy sky of the Mississippi State campus, narrowly missing first place by a hair’s breadth.
Three members of this team also walked away with individual awards for outstanding play in this state championship tournament: Laine Burns, Nate Dunn, and Jenna Trusty. Additionally, Jenna Trusty also earned an award for Top Female in the K-3 Division. This team showed an incredible display of the dichotomy of grit and patience needed in attaining victory in the five rounds of tournament play.
The K-5 Division was the most highly contested and populated division. There was no respite from the constant onslaught of chess aggression. Davidson Elementary was represented nobly by their students: Sydney Epes, Avery Humphreys, Lane Potts, and John Surrette. While the students may have come away empty handed, they were tempered with the hard-won lessons forged in the fire of competitive play. These students displayed grace under pressure and great courage in facing surmounting odds and obstacles. They were relentless and offered no quarter and accepted none, yet played with incredible sportsmanship that is the hallmark of Water Valley chess.
The K-8 Division, an amalgam of elementary and junior high students, were able to eke out with enough rough-hewn victories to earn a fifth place trophy. This gritty group of players consisted of Daniel Allen, Matt Dunn, Nick Faust, Jama-lachi Jones, Kade Kuchta, and John Stevens. Led by Matt Dunn’s three victories, the team was able to rally enough points to place in the standings and receive a trophy for their endeavors. The victories did not come easy and the losses difficult to withstand, yet these young men never ceased fighting the good fight.
An intense weekend of checkmates, stale mates, and difficult-to-fathom losses are all part and parcel of chess competition. With devoted parental support, the words of wisdom from chess coaches John Person and Upton Reynolds, along with school sponsor Sim Ramirez, these students were able to compete with the best and brightest in the state of Mississippi.