FAIRFAX, Va. - In a competition involving Army Junior ROTC teams from around the globe, the Cadets of Saint Thomas Academy, St. Paul, Minn., took top honors at the 2009 Junior ROTC Academic Bowl. The competition - created exclusively for Junior ROTC Cadets by the College Options Foundation - provides the nearly 300,000 students in the Army Junior ROTC program the opportunity to showcase their academic prowess.

More than 2,100 teams participated in the initial phase of the competition, which was conducted online. Top placing teams advanced to Level II - which also was conducted online with a web/voice interactive component. The final phase of the competition, involving 72 teams took place at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. June 26-30.

During the competition at George Mason University, the Cadets fielded questions at the level of those routinely seen on college entrance examinations. They included questions about mathematics, science, English, history and current events.

"They answered a myriad of questions that would probably stump most people twice their age," said Maj. Gen. Arthur M. Bartell, the Commanding General of U.S. Army Cadet Command - the parent organization of the Army ROTC program.

Members of the Saint Thomas Academy team were Madison Whalen, James Hartnett, Tim Mannuzza and Jack Ryan. In the final round of competition, they were matched up against the team representing Lowell High School in San Francisco.

Tension was high as the teams answered the final series of questions that would decide the winner of the competition. Some of the final questions posed involved current events in Sri Lanka, the components of the human heart and 19th century Russian literature.

"In more ways than one, they are an amazing group of young people," said Maj. Gen. Bartell. "Their average grade point average stands at 3.8. Well over half of the group is in academic honors programs at their schools. And here is the statistic that impresses me most; 100 percent of these young people have pledged that they will attend a four-year college. So it is no exaggeration to say that we are truly talking about the best of the best."

Members of the Lowell High School team were Mack Qin, Kristi Cheng, Alex Zhao and Jessica Wu. They came to the competition just weeks after the San Francisco Board of Education reversed a 2006 decision that would have discontinued the entire Junior ROTC program in that city. This latest school board decision will allow students at seven high schools in the city to continue to enjoy the benefits of the Junior ROTC program.

"The Junior ROTC program helps to provide these young people with a rock-solid foundation. It teaches them about citizenship, patriotism and respect. And it helps equip them with the critical leadership skills needed to succeed in a competitive world," said Maj. Gen. Bartell.

"Those are the real reasons why Junior ROTC and competitions like this are so important," he concluded.