By JESSICA BAUER

LOG CABIN STAFF WRITER

When a group of girls at Conway High School East began brainstorming their History Day projects, they knew they wanted more than classroom credit.

This was proven at the national level of the History Day competition, when two separate teams reached an unprecedented height -- they were both ranked second in the nation.

According to history teacher William Richardson, this is the highest ranking ever received by a Conway student, let alone two teams.

"We are certainly proud of the accomplishments of all of our students," Richardson said Tuesday. "They were among an elite group of students who advanced to national competition from the country and now around the world."

Students who participated in this year's competition chose a topic under the theme, "An Individual in History," and chose from several categories, ranging from documentary to performance.

The two second-place teams consisted of juniors Christie Ernsbarger, Lindsey McKee and Sydney Taylor, who created an exhibit for Benjamin Franklin; and sophomores Annie Browne, Jeannie Corbitt, Rachel Ford and Aspen Madrid, who gave a performance featuring Jackie Cochran, founder of the first organization for female pilots in World War II.

Although the students admitted to spending the entire school year on their project, all said they were genuinely shocked at the judge's decisions.

"When the judges called their team, I looked over at Lindsey and her mouth just dropped open," Browne said Tuesday. "We were all so surprised."

According to Madrid, she even hesitated when her team was called to the stage to accept their silver medals.

"You hear them call your name, but you're not really sure if it's real or not so it's a pretty intense situation," Madrid said.

Corbitt said she was impressed with their win, considering the exemplary work done by students from across the country.

"This has never happened in Conway, so we were so surprised and shocked that we actually did it," Corbitt said. "It is really just affirmation that we gave the topics that we became so passionate about their due justice."

Taylor added, "It's a huge honor and it's great to see all of our hard work finally pay off."

Before making their way to the final round, McKee said her group struggled most with narrowing their topic.

"There are a lot of people who would be amazing to research in this category but then Sydney's mom suggested Benjamin Franklin," McKee said. "We thought he would be great because we knew about his role in electricity and the Continental Congress, but as we researched we really discovered that he was the best choice for us."

The students on the performance teams said they wanted to be sure the person they chose reflected their own personalities.

"We knew we wanted to do something with women's rights, but we didn't want to do something that has been overdone, so our teacher suggested Jackie Cochran and she's wonderful," Browne said.

Browne said although picking a topic was hard, the never-ending research was an even more arduous task.

"After doing all the crazy in-depth research, we had to write a script, revise that script nine times and make it 10 minutes long," Browne said. "And then at the different competition levels, we performed it in front of a group of judges."

Aside from learning about their topic, other students' topics and proper research methods, the students said the biggest lesson learned through History Day has been connecting the past to the present.

"In class, you focus on just one part of history but you have to look at all of the history that surrounds your topic for History Day," Corbitt said. "To see how much something that happened so long ago is still impacting our lives today is really cool."

Students in grades seven through 10 participated in History Day within the Conway School District. Twenty-five Conway students competed in the national finals in Washington D.C.

(Staff writer Jessica Bauer can be reached by e-mail at jessica.bauer@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)