The Thrill of the Fight Blazer’s A-Team Appears for First Time at State Governor’s Cup Finals

The Thrill of the Fight

Blazer’s A-Team Appears for First Time at State Governor’s Cup Finals

Deidra Bowling-Meade

The Ashland Beacon

governors cup

 As the A-Team prepared for battle against the top ranked in the state, their fearless leader Eric Lambert gave these final words of encouragement: "A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. This day - we fight!"

The A-Team laughed knowing these words were spoken by Aragorn from Lord of the Rings, yet they were inspired to fight for a victory. Ashland Blazer’s Academic Team attended the Kentucky Association for Academic Competition Governor’s Cup last week and brought home a large coveted silver cup for placing Second Overall in the state. The team won Second in Quick Recall, First in Arts and Humanities, Second in Math, Fourth in Arts and Humanities, and 5th in Language Arts.

Senior Alexandra Ellison shared, “Nothing felt better than winning that cup. It’s something I’ve heard about since I started the academic team. That’s the end goal, our Holy Grail.” 

This was the first time Blazer High School has made it to the state finals in 32 years. Since 2013 when Lambert took over the academic team in 2012, the team has made it to the top eight.


The road to the final battle involved some steep competition.The A-Team had to compete in the district and regional tournaments to then earn a place in the state competition. A student must place in the top five for a tested area in the district competition to get to the regional competition. Then if a student places in the top five at region, he/she gets to go to the state competition. There are 20 students in each subject; only five of those get to go to the next level. Within the region, there are 12 teams with only two of those teams getting to go to the state tournament for Future Problem Solving and Quick Recall.

All students who placed at Region and competed at State were Alexandra Ellison, Drake Caudill, Nathan Woolery, Dirk Hay, Emily Williams, Bonham Buchannon, Anna Bocook, Caroline Yates, and Zack Dillon.

Blazer’s Quick Recall team is captained by Anna Bocook and team members include Alexandra Ellison, Nathan Woolery, Bonham Buchannon, Dirk Hay, Caroline Yates, and Zack Dillon.

In Content Assessment, Anna Bocook was Arts and Humanities State Champ and was 5th in Language Arts. Alexandra Ellison was 2nd in State in Math. Caroline Yates was 4th in the state in Arts and Humanities. Nathan Woolery was 11th in the State in Science.

At the state Governor’s Cup, the A-Team faced difficult challenges. Lambert remarked, “When we drew our teams and found out who we were going to play the second day, Central Hardin, McCracken and Owensboro, all three of those teams had beaten us in the last month. We knew it was going to be a rough road, but we were determined to show we had improved and deserved it. And, we did!” 

Coach Eric Lambert discussed how the students prepared for competition, “The kids practiced five days a week for about two and half hours a day. They competed pretty much every weekend, competing over a 100 matches a season.That definitely prepares them for playing against some of the best teams in the state. They also work heavily on their own using online study materials we have prepared to help them.”

Senior Nathan Woolery remarked, “I’m a nerd to begin with. I really love science.  I’m happy that I can take something I like to do in my spare time and contribute that to the team. It’s a good usage of my time and skills”.

Lambert has coached Blazer’s Academic Team for 13 years. He could tell a difference in this team from the other teams he has coached. Lambert explained,

“All my teams have been very dedicated, hardworking, and very smart. What this team has that the other ones don’t is that they were more connected. I see the love they have for each other and the time they spend together. They spend every Tuesday night playing trivia together at The Mill. They hang out nonstop together after school, study together.  They are the tightest group of kids I have ever had who are willing to put in the extra effort to not let their best friends down. They’re not a team; they’re a family.”

The A-Team all shared the same sentiment.

Junior Anna Bocook commented, “I think one of the things that has made us so successful is that we’re not like ‘this is my teammate.’ We’re like,’this is my best friend.’ We’re in it for each other.”

Junior Dirk Hay shouted, “We’re buddies!”

Woolery shared, “We have group dinners, watch TV, just hang out. It’s some of my favorite moments of the year just being together and chilling out.”

The team joked that they go as far as to watch Mean Girls, Dance Moms, The Notebook, and the Godfather together. They even went dress shopping together for Anna a dress!   

When it comes to competing, the entire team cheers for each other. Bocook shared one of her favorite memories of the entire competition, “The way they do state is they call up all the top 10 players, and you don’t know what order they’re in. What was more amazing to me than getting 1st place was standing there with Caroline Yates, a sophomore, as they called down 10th place, ninth place, and she was higher and higher on the list. She was in the top five as a sophomore. That was the best part of the award ceremony watching her be thrilled with all her hard work.” 

Coach Lambert truly cares for his team and wants the very best for them. Ellison remarked, “He’s another parent at the end of the day.  It doesn’t matter what we go to him for whether it be academic team, school…he will raise hell and high water to get us there.”

Bocook recalled Lambert calming her down after a mini breakdown during competition and assuring her it was going to be okay. “It was definitely a fatherly moment.” 

One of the most special moments from the Governor’s Cup was captured in a photo of Lambert and Bocook embracing with the cup after the competition.

Woolery said, “We’re lucky Lambert puts up with us.”

Lambert commented, “I think the biggest thing I can do as a coach is lead by example. If I take ownership as a coach and put forth that effort then the kids will do the same. I like to build bonds with them to make them feel they will do this for the team no matter how hard the work is or how much dedication that it takes. They are willing to do this for each other and also for me.” 

Coach Lambert recognized two special young ladies on the team and was thankful for all their efforts this year. Lambert stated, “Alexandra Ellison is by far the most amazing math kid I’ve ever coached. To get fourth in the state as a junior and second as a senior is nearly unheard of. She was dominant in Quick Recall Math. She’s just a great kid and has that competitive edge that you always look for. Anna Bocook is a phenomenal leader who inspired our team and pushed them to be better. She brings out the best in her teammates.” 

Ashland's Academic Team coaches include:

Head Coach- Eric Lambert

Assistant Coaches- Dawson Coovert, Matt Dickison, and Seth Skaggs

Coach Emeritus- Dr. Amber Tackett

Writing Coach- John Mulvaney

Science Coach- Justin Imel

The team is also heavily assisted and mentored by several alumni who have assisted throughout the year and attended the Governor's Cup Competition: Logan Coovert, Ace Farris, and Myintmo Tun.

Lambert commented, “After 13 years of putting in so much time and effort, I shed a lot of tears this past weekend because I had seen so many kids go through and fall just short of getting to where we are now and being one of the top teams in the state.  All our hard work has come to fruition, so I made sure to reach out to all my past players and say thank you for being part of the foundation that built this.” 

Lambert also acknowledged others who have also supported the team, “Our superintendent Sean Howard has done an amazing job supporting and empowering our coaches to do whatever it takes to get this team to the top. The Blazer administration has also been amazing in supporting and recognizing our hard work and achievements. We greatly appreciate the support from our community and their recognition of the hard work we put in.”

The future looks bright for the A-Team heading into next season with several members of the team coming back next year. Lambert shared, “I’m excited!  We will have another good team next year. At some point this will end, but not today.” 

Hayes chanted, “Number one, number one!”

Woolery repeated, “We’re not done! This group is going back.”

Hayes continued, “We don’t want to have our one year in the spotlight and then be done.”

Bocook concurred, “We don’t want it to be a one and done.”

The A-Team isn’t wasting any time as they start practice again this week and groove to Lambert’s 80s selected anthem “Eye of the Tiger.” They are ready for the thrill of the fight and rising up to the challenge of their rivals.

Related Articles