By Curt Yeomans
The seniors on this year's Technology Student Association (TSA) team at Lovejoy High School will never know what its like to not be one of the top teams in Georgia.
The students finished third in the TSA state competition as freshmen. They finished second as sophomores. They moved up another step by winning two state championships as juniors and seniors.
The seniors added their latest championship by leading their team to 30 top-10 finishes on March 6 and 7, at the TSA state conference in Athens.
"[Winning another state championship is] a feeling like no other," said Stanley Wyre, one of the seniors on the team, and TSA's national sergeant-at-arms. "We went from third to second to first, to first again. After last year, there was no other option for us, but to repeat as state champions."
The seniors on this year's team are Wyre, Edward Anderson, Evan Whitlock, Niketa Agarwal, Hudson Greer, Ohara Russell, Marcia Daugherty and Melody Perez.
Other members of the team are Kimberlee Adkins, Namita Agarwal (Niketa's sister), Gregory Flowers, David Nguyen, Cody Sauls, Harley Shaffer and Hao Tran.
Lovejoy's 15-member team now will compete in the national TSA competition in Orlando, Fla., June 28 through July 2.
"It's our senior year, so we want to end the year with a bang," said team member, Hudson Greer. He's been on the team all four years.
As the team has risen in the state ranks, the group's eight seniors have grown into a close-knit group.
"I definitely think we have learned how to deal with each other," said Ohara Russell, who has been on the team since her sophomore year.
"It's kind of like a family. We know each other's strengths and weaknesses," said Marcia Daugherty, a four-year member of the team.
"The camaraderie of this team is big. We eat lunch together, and we hang out after school together," said Melody Perez, also a four-year member.
"We just have our own social circle," said Niketa Agarwal, another veteran.
Tim Schmidt, one of the team's former advisors, said the closeness of the seniors has had noticeable affects on the team's success over the years.
"They have a system for everything, from how to work as a team, to how to pack their suitcases for competitions," he said.
Christie Schmidt, the wife of the former advisor, and the team's advisor for the last four years, said it will be difficult to see this group of seniors leave. She has taught some of the team members since they were students at Lovejoy Middle School.
She said this year's seniors already have taken steps to ensure future TSA teams from Lovejoy are successful by passing down everything they know to their younger teammates.
"I'm going to miss these guys a lot," said Christie Schmidt. "I think it's a little tougher because you come to learn what to expect from these kids ... I haven't really been in a school where they haven't been there. I don't think there's been a day in the last seven years where Edward (Anderson) hasn't been in one of my classes," she added.
"Any advice she (Christie Schmidt) gives me, I know it's something that's going to help me out a lot," Anderson said. "I trust her a lot."
Evan Whitlock said the only advice he'd give future TSA team members at Lovejoy is to be inquisitive. "Don't be afraid to ask questions of your associates," he said. "They can offer you a lot of advice, which will help you out a lot."
The team members are now trying to raise money to pay their trip to the national competition this summer. Each team member needs $500, or roughly $7,500 total. The students are canvassing local businesses for donations.
Anyone interested in learning more about TSA, or to make a financial donation, contact Christie Schmidt at the school, (770) 473-2924, or go to http:://lovejoytechnology.netfirms.com/.