Frankie Reid and John Lu not only finished first and second place in the MathCounts competition, but duplicated that feat in the informal Countdown event.

The annual middle school contest brings teams together for a written test that determines the teams and individual students who qualify for a state tournament.

Frankie's Kennedy Middle School team – also comprised of Emily Chafin, Sarah Steiner and Steven Wallace – will participate in the event in Columbia on March 8.

John, a Schofield Middle School student, and teammate Gilric Stroman, also qualified individually. Gilric was the top finisher in the 2013 MathCounts.

They were the top performers in this year's match that weren't members of the Kennedy squad. The top four, in order, were Frankie, John, Gilric and Emily.

Schofied finished second as a team and St. Mary Help of Christians School was third. The other participating teams were the Aiken Area Home Educators and Johnston-Edgefield-Trenton Middle School, also known as JET.

All the students took an extensive written test on a wide range of algebraic concepts. The next four in order were Gracie Herrin, JET; Emily, Sarah and Jim Driscoll, St. Mary.

Frankie and John have known each other for some time. Their dads, Tom Reid and Zhenheng Li, are USC Aiken math professors.

The written exam was given apart from parents and other guests at the event, held at Aiken Technical College. Open to the public was the Countdown. The top 12 students on the exam played one-on-one in rounds before Frankie edged John in the finals. Gilric defeated Emily, earlier in the consolation match, for third place.

MathCounts coordinator Jeff Pike is a member of the sponsoring Aiken chapter of the S.C. Society of Professional Engineers. ATC is also a sponsor along with the CRSA Section of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. The announcer was Dr. James Brooke. Elisha Chrzan, an ATC math instructor, served as the judge.

ATC President Dr. Susan Winsor welcomed the students, complimenting them on their interest in STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Many of the top jobs are found in that knowledge area.

Students also can learn more, Winsor said – encouraging the MathCounts participants to remain enthused about those fields.

“I know that some young people loss interest in STEM, as soon as elementary school,” Winsor said. “Every time that happens, a door of opportunity is closed for what they might do for the rest of their lives.

Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard's education reporter. and has been with the newspaper since September 2001. He is a native of Walterboro and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.