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Our Lady of Perpetual Help takes team championship at annual academic challenge at Camden Catholic. Celeste E. Whittaker/Staff Photographer

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MAPLE SHADE – For the second straight year, Our Lady of Perpetual Help School was the team champion at the annual Camden Catholic High School Academic Olympics.

The event was held Nov. 8 and involved more than 50 middle-school participants from eight area schools, who gathered at Camden Catholic’s Hocker Information Commons to test their knowledge in science, math, social studies and English.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help, located in Maple Shade, finished first overall and had the first-place overall individual winner, eighth-grader Leanna Hobbs, who received a $500 scholarship.

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Second-place winner Victoria Bui of Resurrection Catholic School in Cherry Hill received a $300 registration credit, while third-place winner Kristina Monari, also of Resurrection Catholic School, received a freshman book award worth about $150.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help had four other students finish in the top 15: Allison Ewing, Evan Schwantes, Olivia Pawlow and Justine Marano.

“I think it’s amazing for our team to be able to finish so well,” Principal Carl Jankowski said. “It’s a true testament to the teachers and the students here at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, to our commitment to academic excellence.

"It was thrilling to see Leanna finish first. She went and competed last year as a seventh-grader and finished in the top five. So this year when she went back, she was full of nervous energy and she was able to take first.”

Hobbs enjoyed experiencing it all again.

"Not only for me to share it with all my friends but to show how OLPH is very vigorous with our academics and we definitely can show how amazing we are with them," she said.

“Finishing first overall (individually) was a great experience. I find it very humbling because it wasn’t just me. When I looked out ... I saw all of my friends sitting there. They were cheering me on. I just knew I could do this.”

In the first round, students took a 100-question test and had dinner as the tests were graded. In round two, 15 students with the top scores from the first round competed in the semifinal game show competition. In round three, the top three students competed.

“It was definitely very exciting to win last year, so of course the stakes were raised pretty high,” said Ewing, an eighth-grader. “Once I saw that five of our students had made the top 15, it was kind of like a sign that ‘wow, I think we got the top school again.’''

Pawlow, also an eighth-grader, said: “When I found out that I was able to go to the Academic Olympics, I was really shocked and I didn’t know what to expect. Thankfully my classmates that went with me reassured me and told me what was going to happen.”

Schwantes, a fellow eighth-grader, noted “you can tell how much hard work pays off as a team.”

The other participating schools were: Our Lady of Hope in Pine Hill; Resurrection Catholic School of Cherry Hill; St. Joe Pro-Cathedral School in Camden; St. Mary of the Lakes in Medford; St. Mary in Williamstown; St. Paul School in Burlington; and St. Peter in Merchantville.

Jankowksi said the 11 students from his school who participated either volunteered to go or were encouraged to go by teachers.

“The team really does formulate itself one year to the next where we’re bringing our seventh-graders to compete and next year they’ll be the leads on the team,” he said.

Celeste E. Whittaker; @cp_CWhittaker; 856-486-2437; cwhittaker@gannettnj.com

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