Members of Winburn Middle School's Quick Recall academic team were still working hard late Friday, long after most other students had gone home.
The eight students sat at tables, concentrating hard on coach Toni Kirkner and firing off answers almost before she could finish the questions.
This was serious business: the team was preparing for the prestigious Governor's Cup State Finals competition in Louisville on Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
It was really serious business, actually, because Winburn is a contender to win the event's Quick Recall competition, and the students also expect to be in the running for the overall middle school state championship.
Like athletes who sweat out long hours training in the gym, the Winburn team members have been preparing for years. Most began competing in academic events in grade school.
"This is their sport," Kirkner said during a break. "They have all this knowledge; they read everything they can get their hands on. As soon as these kids hear the first five words of a question they usually know the answer."
During part of Wednesday's practice, Kirkner even threw out questions team members had never heard before. If that slowed them down any, it was not obvious.
The Governor's Cup, begun in 1986 to promote and recognize outstanding student achievement, is a showcase for youngsters' intellectual ability.
Quick Recall tends to get lots of attention because of the speed and action involved. But it's just one of eight events at the Governor's Cup. The others are made up of written assessments in five academic subjects; future problem solving; and composition.
Winburn will take more than 20 team members to the Governor's Cup and will compete in all eight events. Each student can compete in up to three events.
"You practice, you practice some more, and you practice some more," said team member Max Bograd, a 12-year-old seventh-grader. "It comes down to what you know."
Max has competed in the Governor's Cup before. He said he hopes Winburn can win it all this year: "I don't know if we will, but we can."
Hannah Wang, a 13-year-old eighth-grader, competes in written assessment and composition, as well as Quick Recall.
"We memorize a bunch of info," Hannah said. "It's not really that hard; you kind of get used to it.
"I guess it helps prepare you for study, because you have to memorize a lot. And that's a big thing when you go to college."
Winburn finished fifth in Quick Recall at last year's Governor's Cup. One reason, Kirkner said, was that the team didn't get enough tough competition during the season.
She made sure members got plenty of challenges this year; she even scheduled events against high school students. Winburn defeated most of the teams it faced.
That, Kirkner said, could pay off in Louisville this weekend.
Jim Warren (859) 231-3255.