By Dana Delgado
Shea Rozmiarek knew all along he had it in him to win it all.
With a score of 294 out of a possible 360, the Liberty Hill High School senior claimed First Place in Mathematics at the University Interscholastic League (UIL) State Academic Meet for Conference 3A held May 19-21 at the University of Texas campus.
“This is the crowning moment of my high school career,” Rozmiarek said. “I’ve been getting better and better and now to be the best in the state in Conference 3A — I’m excited. It makes me proud that my efforts and the efforts of my coach and teammates have culminated to something so grand.”
With the win comes the title of UIL Academic State Champion. Shea is the son of Ed and Susan Rozmiarek of Liberty Hill. He was coached by Haika Karr, LHHS math teacher and Mathematics Department Chairperson.
“I couldn’t be more proud,” said Mrs. Karr. “I have had the pleasure of watching Shea grow from a somewhat shy freshman to a confident senior. I have high hopes for his future, and I know he will do great things.”
The triumph did not come easy. Rozmiarek had to dethrone the two-time defending champion from academic powerhouse Argyle High School. Argyle won team honors by placing three students among the top six finishers and has been a perennial top team finisher.
Although Rozmiarek went into the state meet as the No. 1 seed for Conference 3A, the LHHS senior knew he had to take care of business.
“I knew I had the potential and I was confident,” he said. “I just stayed calm throughout the competition. I just don’t get nervous.”
The only surprise to Rozmiarek was that he didn’t score over 300. He had scored 318 at the regional meet prior to the state meet.
To advance to the state meet, he had to advance through various levels of competition. The senior placed first at the District Meet, which was hosted by LHHS. At the regional meet held in Lubbock, he again outscored all competitors to take top honors and qualified for the state meet where he swept the competition.
Students are scored on a mathematics test comprised of 60 multiple choice questions. Questions range from algebra, to geometry, to calculus, to number theory, to math history. For this year’s test, three new topics were added — Mayan numbers and seven trapezoidal means along with Zeno’s paradoxes as part of mathematical history.
Students have 40 minutes to complete the test and are penalized for incorrect answers and for questions that are not attempted.
Rozmiarek said he took the entire 40 minutes and answered 53 of the 60 questions.
“At the state level, the test is designed to test a mastery of the concepts included, so it is made to be hard, but not tricky, and able to be done if you know what you are doing,” he said. “The most challenging types of problems for me are the ones that test geometric relationships, simply because there are a lot of complicated relations and rules that I have to be familiar with.”
Rozmiarek said he was most confident with linear algebra because it is a field that he is highly interested and knowledgeable in.
“I find linear algebra to be my favorite and the most interesting because in UIL competition I am able to apply my interest in computer science in math by writing programs for these problems since we are allowed to use programs on our calculators,” the senior said.
This was Rozmiarek’s third time to advance to the state meet. Last year as a junior, he medaled as the fourth place finisher in Mathematics with a score of 252 after finishing second at the regional meet and capturing first place in district competition.
Mrs. Karr, his coach over the last four years, chronicles his development.
“I was fortunate to work with Shea since his freshman year when he competed in Number Sense,” she said.
In his sophomore year, Rozmiarek became a part of the Mrs. Karr’s math team, and continued on a Number Sense Team that advanced to the state meet. By this time, he had also taken over the duties of writing programs for UIL math students, which had been previously done by Mrs. Karr.
“His junior year, I added Calculator to Shea’s UIL events and this team advanced to State,” said Mrs. Karr. “This team placed third at state.”
Mrs. Karr said Rozmiarek also has been helping with coaching his teammates and competed in Computer Science all four years during which he went to state three of those years.
The Liberty Hill senior distinguished himself in other competitions as well this school year. He captured third among all high school students with his combined scores for Number Sense, Calculator, Math and Science at the state mathematics competition hosted by the Texas Math and Science Coaches Association. In addition, Rozmiarek competed with the school’s robotics team as the lead programmer.
Rozmiarek credits his success to the support of his math teacher, Mrs. Karr.
“Mrs. Karr has been so helpful since ninth grade as my UIL Coach and AP Teacher,” he said. “She is a great teacher — so enthusiastic and passionate about math and teaching. She really cares about her students and is very understanding.”
Another person Rozmiarek praised is Tammy Ballard, the UIL Director for LHHS.
“Ms. Ballard has been so supportive,” he said. “She’s always been there to help and encourage me.”
Rozmiarek says one of the keys to his success has been his motivation to constantly learn and challenge himself. He recalls being jealous of a friend in kindergarten who was in advanced math. He wanted to be part of that program, too, so he pushed himself and eventually got into the advanced math program but only after moving from Round Rock to Liberty Hill.
In eighth grade, he began taking advanced mathematics classes for high school and later college credit and distinguished himself along the way to the extent that he says he is a finalist for 2014 Valedictorian going into the final week of school.
The senior has been accepted into the Turing Scholars Program at the University of Texas at Austin. The Turing Scholars Program is an honors program for outstanding undergraduates in the Computer Science Department.
“I loved it,” Rozmiarek said after attending an orientation and auditing a class. “I felt very comfortable. I think it will be a very good fit. There are many options and I don’t have to commit to any one thing.”
He said he was attracted by the Computer Science Department’s national ranking, research advantages, and the opportunity to live at the honors housing.
Before settling on computer science as a college major, he originally wanted to be a geologist, he said. It was around sixth grade that his interest in computers began to grow from basic electronics to programming, to applications.