Morgan State Academic Team Gains Second Consecutive Honda Campus All-Star Championship

On a chilly tuesday morning, at 10:11 am Craig Cornish, Kyle De Jan, Michael Osikomaiya and James Hayes-Barber stood alongside their coach Dr. Oluwatosin Adegbola on Morgan State’s quad area to be commemorated in their matching navy blue short sleeve polos and khakis, the same uniform in which they won the Honda Campus All Star Challenge in.

Honda Corporation executive and Assistant Vice President of Corporate Community Relations, Steve Morikawa, awarded Morgan State $50,000. “It’s showing on the national stage that we have here at Morgan some of the brightest, best most competitive lines in this world,” said President Wilson as he honored the team. Four students competed in nationals for two days to continue their reign as champs, but the year round journey tells a bigger story.

Morgan State University students pose with their trophy after winning  the 24th Annual Honda Campus All-Star Challenge at the American Honda Headquarters in Torrance, Calif., April 8, 2013. Morgan State University students of Baltimore, Md. take back $50,000 in grant money for their school, besting 47 other schools who competed in this years challenge.

Morgan State University students pose with their trophy after winning the 24th Annual Honda Campus All-Star Challenge at the American Honda Headquarters in Torrance, Calif., April 8, 2013. Morgan State University students of Baltimore, Md. take back $50,000 in grant money for their school, besting 47 other schools who competed in this year’s challenge.

Hayes-Barber, sophomore electrical engineering major joined the team his freshman year as a way to be active on campus. “I got into Morgan off a scholarship, so I never had a prebuilt group going in here,” says Hayes-Barber. “You know it might be a little cliché to say but I felt that with Honda I actually found my Morgan family. I found somewhere where I actually belong.”

Osikomaiya, junior English major joined the team his freshman year in the 2011 challenge. After seeing flyers posted around the Student Center and attending the first practice, he knew it was where he wanted to be. “Everyone on the team was really smart, so I thought to myself  ‘yeah, I want to be like these guys’.”

Cornish, senior history major and captain of the team always took interest in trivia, but was inspired by his dorm mates to take his talents to the HCASC. “I’ve always had a dream to be on Jeopardy and this is the closest thing so far,” says Cornish.

De Jan, a first year competitor and senior history major was influenced by Cornish to join the team because of his trivia fact skills. “It was fun to be on the team with the national champs as the new guy.” De Jan wanted to prove that he could be beneficial to his team, and his teammates agree he has.

“Kyle has proven to be a very stabilizing influence on the  team,” says Cornish. “Mike, James and I can be very volatile at times. Kyle’s sort of been the straight man to keep it all together. He’s definitely the coolest head in the room, which isn’t saying too much if you know us.”

With the spotlight from last year’s championship win, there was a lot of pressure and an expectation that the team would hold onto its title. Already aware of how the game would be played, the team was comfortable and prepared.

“If it aint broke don’t fix it,” says Hayes-Barber. The team continued their same pattern of last year with dedicated practicing.

De Jan, who is also a Resident Assistant for O’Connell Hall struggled with balancing life duties but still worked hard and made a name for himself on the team. “It was a knowledge-based gap between myself and the players so I personally worked hard to fill the gap as quickly as possible,” says De Jan. “I’ve had nights where I’ve stayed up until four o’clock in the morning studying.”

The team began practicing in the fall for six hours a week and increased to 8-12 hour sessions a week in the spring. But with the help of their coach, Dr. Tosin, the team balanced their schoolwork well.

Honda Campus All-Star Challenge“Dr. Tosin has always made it clear that school comes first,” says Cornish. “When we had a pressing assignment to do, she preferred us to attend practice and not skip out but she’d just leave us in a corner to do our work.”  The time that they spent together also strengthened their bond.

“We’ve grown into another family over the course of a year,” says De Jan. “That’s probably a large part of our success this year, because we were able to establish really good team chemistry.” And their chemistry and team efforts worked well, even when they had second thoughts.

“Once you go up on the field all you’re focusing on is the buzzer and the questions, you’re actually more nervous when you’re on the sideline watching the other team win,” says Barber-Hayes. “You trust your brothers but there’s always this little nagging thing like ‘can they do this?’ and then they just blow it out of the water.”

As captain, Cornish’s nervousness came with trusting his teammates to take the wheel. “At times I felt like I was the captain at the end of the day it should come down to me to decide things, and what I had to learn was my teammates were really good as well,” says Cornish. There were moments where I wasn’t at my best and they picked me up and they won games that we wouldn’t have if it was just me alone.”

The team enjoys the end payoff of returning to Morgan as winners and gaining recognition on campus. “I’m really happy that people are recognizing our club,” says Osikomaiya. “It’s just really cool to have someone honor us.”

Holding the championship title meant more for the team than bragging rights. “Feeling that you’re giving something back to Morgan after all that Morgan’s given to you, that’s a really good feeling- to feel like you’re a part of something greater than yourself, ” says Hayes-Barber.

Cornish and De Jan plan to focus all their attention on graduation and attending grad school. Their absence for next year’s challenge leaves their teammate wary.

“You can’t imitate that, so making something just as strong is something that’s going to be a real challenge to forge,” says Hayes-Barber.

Regardless of the challenges the team will face, Cornish and De Jan believe the university will prevail in the big leagues. “Morgan will be fine without us, the [next] team will be just as strong,” says De Jan. Cornish has high hopes that the next set of challengers to wow Morgan again.

“We’re looking to start a dynasty now, two in a row has been done- a three-peat is unprecedented.”

 

One Comment

  1. Congrats to the Honda All Star team for another big win. This type of campus involvement is what future employers love to see. Mrs. R at The HBCU Career Center