Students and teachers lined the hallways and cheered Tuesday, May 16, when the team returned with first-place titles in the K6 Under 1,400 and the K8 Under 750 sections of the tournament, making them among the best in the nation.
“We are extremely proud of our UPSM elementary and middle school chess teams,” said Mark Ornstein, CEO of University Prep Schools. “These amazing students are a shining example of what is possible with hard work and a passion for the game of chess.”
In addition to winning as a team, sixth-grader Cameron Rector scored a trophy in the individual K8 Under 750 section, giving him bragging rights as the best chess player in the nation in that designation.
“It’s been really exciting for me,” Rector said. “My parents bought me a new phone [after winning].”
After losing so many of their top players from last year, Coach Kevin Fite never thought at the beginning of this year that the team would bring home the gold.
“Our kids set their goals and worked very hard to achieve them,” Fite said. “As the tournament approached, I felt better about our chances of possibly winning. We ended up winning two national championship titles.”
The young champions haven’t let the win go to their heads, though. After celebrating at a party thrown by the school, Cameron, for one, said he’s back to his everyday routine — school, chess and baseball practices, then some video-game playing.
“As coach, my job is to keep them humble and to continue to improve on areas where we need extra work,” Fite said. “There’s always room for improvement, so I look forward to continuing this next year by keeping our kids together, working hard and staying modest.”
The win isn’t the end for Cameron, who said he hopes to make it to the world championship someday and bring home another trophy. His plan: Take his time and keep practicing.