Math team excels at regionals, sends two members to state


By Cole Altmayer, entertainment editor
Senior Alex Guerra’s biggest worry when competing for math team isn’t missing out on a key concept or getting a problem completely wrong. He’s usually pretty confident, especially considering the 10 rigorous hours of studying he clocks in prior to each competition in addition to all the time he devotes to math classes back at school.
Instead, he worries about the little mistakes, like the misreading of a problem or the misplacement of a decimal. Even the slightest error could spell doom, but at the Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics Math Team Regional competition last Saturday at Harper College, Guerra took every precaution he could to avoid catastrophe.
“With a minute left, I took a step back and made sure every single answer was in a proper form,” Guerra said. “Sometimes they ask for answers as a decimal, sometimes they ask for it as a fraction, and they won’t accept it if you put it the other way, even if it’s the same thing. [The judges are] very picky.”
This precision resulted in a state qualification for Guerra, who is one of two Prospect students to qualify, the other being junior Leo Garkisch.
Math team coach and math teacher Michael Grasse wasn’t surprised by their success.
“They push each other like crazy,” Grasse said. “They’re always razzing each other and giving each other problems and trying to solve them faster than the other. There’s a great friendly rivalry between those two that’s fun to watch.”
Although they both qualified in individual competitions, they also competed together in a two-person group event. Grasse believes this is a testament to their individual success, and they owe some of their success to the high standard they hold each other to.
Guerra is looking forward to the state competition, which will be held at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in May. He sees this year as a shot at redeeming himself for his state performance last year, which he felt was lackluster despite making it into the top 100 students statewide.
“Last year was a bit rough. … I made a lot of bad mistakes,” Guerra said. “I’m hoping to get top 25 in state [this year]. I would be very happy with that.”
With Garkisch and Guerra’s qualification, Grasse remarks that this would be the sixth year in a row where Prospect has had at least two individual qualifiers. Though Prospect did not have any group events qualify this year, Grasse takes pride in helping lead a very strong team that always manages to keep him on his toes.
“They’re in fact challenging us as coaches,” Grasse said. “We’re running out of problems for them to do.”