Jim Durham
News Bureau Director

Burch academicteam 4 Peat! Who Can Recall Such Success as Coach Burch’s Academic Team?
Dr. Barbara Burch, center, coach of the KCQRL-winning GC Academic Team, with her varsity. Clockwise from left: Ava Jordan, Becca Sicking, Ryan Thompson, Joel Federspiel, Tyler Frailie.

Barbara Burch’s Georgetown Collegiate Academic Team (GCAT) has won the Kentucky College Quick Recall League 10 times in her 15 years as varsity coach – including a fourth straight KCQRL title recently with a very satisfying, tie-breaking victory over the University of Louisville in the season finale.

But, to hear Professor Burch tell it – with her other duties as Chair of the English Department and Director of the College’s Honors Program – she couldn’t have pulled it off without the help of Tim Griffith, Assistant Professor of Biology. Last spring she hosted a tournament while on sabbatical, but Dr. Griffith traveled to tournaments with the team.

“Even when I am not on sabbatical, I could not do it without Tim’s support and dedication,” said Dr. Burch, who also lauded former varsity captain Katherine Music ’07 for helping out.

Burch might not have continued this title-string without the pipeline of talent from Russell High School and the aura from that Greenup County school’s gentlemanly coach, John “The Colonel” Burgess. An ROTC instructor, this retired Air Force Lt. Colonel coached three of GC’s five varsity players –including grand-daughter Becca Sicking, a senior.

Whenever “The Colonel” attended GCAT matches, Coach Burch would think to herself “oh, gosh, we have to win now.” But, Russell-ites Becca, senior Tyler Frailie and sophomore Ryan Thompson – who have competed together since middle school – had her back. Tyler, a Biology major who is also one of three Dean’s Honor Award winners, recalled “The Colonel would say ‘You like to win, and I like to win…I’m not going to force you, you’ll just have to work for it’.”

Burch is pretty much the same way; plus, she doesn’t recruit “specialists” (members have a variety of majors, minors) and she’s all about team. “Yes, we just care about each other – and the W’s,” she laughed.

The GCAT doesn’t even keep stats. Proving that: When the varsity gathered for a team photo on Thursday, not one could recall the final score against U of L. “Maybe 12-13 points,” Becca haltingly ventured. But, she DID know a head-to-head victory was “a must” as Georgetown trailed Louisville in the league standings going into the final tourney of the season.

Neither Becca nor her teammates – including juniors Joel Federspiel of La Grange (Oldham County) and Ava Jordan of Ekron (Meade County) – could recall a question-and-answer that clinched the win. “Just the way everyone played together as a team was what made me feel like we could win,” said Becca, a Biology major and Chemistry minor. “Then, when we won, it was a really exciting moment.”

Talk about team…the GCAT accomplished the 4-peat without their MVP Thompson, who couldn’t attend the last tournament. “Honestly, I don’t nurture stars. I build teams,” said Burch, proud that the others stepped up. “I always tell them that ‘if we all score, we can’t be beat’.”

Georgetown College finished with a 26-4 record. U of L (21-4) placed second in the league followed by Ohio University-Southern, Eastern Kentucky University, Murray State University, University of the Cumberlands, and Pikeville College.

Burch will have to replace Becca Sicking, who starts Pharmacy School at the University of Kentucky this fall, and Tyler Frailie, who will pursue a Master’s in Biology at (ironically) U of L. But Ava Jordan likes GCAT’s chances for a fifth straight title in 2010-11. “We’ll be losing two really strong players, but a lot of the current JV players will be moving up to Varsity and will bring a very positive attitude to the team as a whole,” said the English major, Classics and Spanish double minor. “Everyone has been playing really well this year and I think both teams have grown a lot, allowing for better teamwork in the future.”

Other varsity returnees will be Joel Federspiel, a double major in Chemistry and Computational Science who will then have under his belt a National Cancer Institute (Bethesda, MD) internship; and Ryan Thompson, a Political Science major, Biology and Chemistry double minor who is doing immunology research at Marshall University this summer.

They hope to add to Burch’s record of 10 Division I state titles and are pointing toward defending their Region 5 title in the College Bowl League, which is being reorganized. (The 2007-08 GCAT team qualified for and finished 8th of 16 in their first national College Bowl, defeating such prominent institutions as Washington University of St. Louis, Seton Hall and Rice University.)

Burch will be looking for a number of her Junior Varsity players – which finished second to U of L in the Division II competition – to step up and contribute at the next level. They include co-MVPs Kyle Huskin, a junior from Corpus Christi, TX, and Meredith Mueller, a sophomore from Covington, KY; sophomore Courtney Mueller (Meredith’s twin sister); Joshua Slone, a sophomore from Georgetown; and freshmen Rachael Castillo of Paducah, Meredith Rigby of Richmond, and “Rookie of the Year” Charlie Crowe of Frankfort.

Castillo, an English major, wrote:

“We are a team not because we compete together, but because we have fun together. That sounds simplistic and cliched, but it’s true. At the beginning of every season, all the team members and our coaches get together for an evening of fun and “bonding.” As a freshman, I must admit that I was skeptical about spending an evening with my professor and a group of students I barely knew. It sounded too much like one giant icebreaker, and I had had enough of those during orientation!

But I went anyway, mostly because of a comment one of my teammates made about the evening: Once you go, you won’t be able to leave us. She was right.

The members of this team are just good people and good friends. We all get along and enjoy spending time together. Before our last tournament, Dr. Burch told the JV that there was one thing she wanted us to do above all: Have fun. I think that’s why we have such a great team. Of course we try our best to win, but not at the expense of enjoying the game.”

Coach Burch adopted another slogan this year – a bit of folk wisdom from Tyler Frailie’s father, Pete – which she hopes GCAT teams of the future carry on: “No pea is greater than the pod.”