Hollis Brookline High School math team wins ninth consecutive SMASH league championship and state Division II title

HOLLIS – The Hollis Brookline High School math team has won the Southern Mathematics Association of Senior High (SMASH) league championship for the ninth consecutive year, as well as the state Division II championship title.

“We have been SMASH league champions every year since 2000, except for 2005,” said proud faculty advisor Stacey Plummer. That’s 14 out of 15 years, for those who are counting, along with previous nonconsecutive state titles.

A large, shiny trophy has the place of honor on Plummer’s desk inside her classroom. She has been a math team advisor for 19 of her 20 years teaching, starting at Merrimack High School before her arrival at HBHS 14 years ago. She never competed on a high school math team herself since there wasn’t one where she grew up.

Plummer explained how the SMASH league has about 25 regional teams competing, while the state championship is divided into groups based on school size, much like sports matches, with HBHS in the Division II category.

There are five meets during the year leading up to the state championship, with one practice held just prior to each meet. Meets are attended by the entire team, which currently boasts 50 members, but only the top 10 performers are chosen to compete. The remainder are considered the junior varsity team for that event.

“Unlike sports, where the varsity team is set at the beginning of the season, we fluctuate,” Plummer said. “If the JV performs better, we switch out, so it changes all season. It is fun for us and for the kids. They always feel like they have a chance.”

The team is relatively even in terms of male/female participants, and Plummer is quick to point out that these students are not your stereotypical geeks but rather well-rounded individuals with many interests. Because math team is not a huge time commitment, participants don’t have to skip other opportunities to participate.

“I’ve been on math team my whole high school career and middle school, too,” said senior Nick Garside, who is also the captain of the varsity football team. “I think of it as a fun day where I get to be with people who I like and do what I think is enjoyable. A lot of people have this idea that math team is full of nerds, but we’re not.”

In addition to math team, senior Reagan Burns plays varsity lacrosse and crew. Her competitive drive serves her well in all these fields.

“I love math, and it is fun to go to the meets,” she said. “I’m not on the varsity team but I always try to beat my personal score. The problems are like puzzles, and to be the high scorer among ourselves is awesome.”

Susan Mooers, Plummer’s co-advisor, agrees that even those students who know they will be JV alternates still are excited to participate and attend the meets, even though their scores won’t count.

“Some schools can barely pull together a 10-member team,” she said. “I am really excited to be coaching at a school where there is so much passion for mathematics.”