Con team takes 3rd at Nationals


Center for Civic Education

Lincoln’s Con Team celebrates on stage after placing third at Nationals in Washington, D.C. on April 30.

One month ago, Lincoln High School’s 2017-2018 Constitution Team was shocked to hear breaking information: the team had received a Wild Card, which was their gateway to compete in the national competition.

On Monday, hard work paid off as Lincoln placed third at the National Competition in Washington, D.C., while Grant High School placed first.

For the last 30 years, Lincoln and Grant High School’s Constitution Teams have been the only two teams to win the state title in Oregon. From 2007-2016, Lincoln and Grant took turns winning the state competition and representing Oregon at the national competition. This trend was broken in the 2016-2017 season when Grant won the state competition for the second year in a row.

In addition, since 2012, Oregon has won the national championship regardless if it was Lincoln or Grant representing the state. This trend was also broken in the 2016-2017 season when Virginia won nationals and Grant took 2nd.

Despite the Lincoln losses at the state level in the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons, the team was given a second chance to win the national title after receiving a Wild Card from The Center for Civic Education (CCE), which runs the We the People constitution team competition.

Wild Card slots are filled by runner-ups at the state competition for states that opted in to be in the pool of Wild Card recipients. These teams are then numbered by state in order of a randomly generated list, number 49 being Oregon. This determines the order in which the Wild Card will be offered to each state. Even though number 49 is one of the last on the list, Oregon was still offered a Wild Card after teams higher on the list declined the slot when offered.

“[The CCE] needs 56 teams to attend [the national competition] in order to [recoup its costs for putting it on], and there are only 52 states, [including Washington D.C. and the Northern Mariana Islands],” said current Lincoln Constitution Team coach Jonathan Pulvers. With one team being sent for free on scholarship money, the CCE needs three Wild Card slots filled to recoup its costs.

“However, many states don’t have competitions or don’t send their state champions [to the national competition] due to cost. At this point,  the “CCE needs 10-20 Wild Card teams […] to meet their goal,” said Pulvers.

After state, the current Lincoln Constitution Team remained practicing, despite placing 2nd finishing behind Grant. When the opportunity arose for a Wild Card slot, the team accepted.

“The reason why we still practiced and prepared for nationals after state was because we wouldn’t know for sure if we got the Wild Card until March. If we didn’t stop preparing until we got the Wild Card, it would be too late for us to go to nationals we wouldn’t be prepared,” said team member junior Yian Li.

Despite the wait, team members were prepared to compete. “Students [were] at that point where they finally realiz[ed] all the things that they actually know, and all of the sudden it goes from that spread of ‘I have no idea what’s going on’ to all of the sudden shoulders up and ‘I actually know something, I’m an expert,’” said coach Rion Roberts.

“Win or lose, this has been the most unique and insightful experience of my life,” said Anna Rosenberg, a sophomore on the team.


Previous year’s wild card denied by state organizers

Similar to this year’s Lincoln Constitution Team, the 2016-2017 team placed 2nd behind Grant in the state competition and did not advance to nationals. However, it was recently revealed that Oregon was offered a Wild Card last year, but the state rejected the slot.

A Wild Card is initially offered to the state, and, if accepted by state organizers, the second place team is given the opportunity to either accept or reject the slot. Since the state declined the Wild Card, Lincoln was denied the opportunity to choose whether or not they wanted to compete at the national competition.

Oregon’s We the People organizers, which run the statewide Constitution Team competition, failed to answer the question of specifically why it declined last year’s Wild Card.

The team members and coaches of the 2016-2017 season weren’t aware of what happened because the state declined the Wild Card before news even reached Lincoln. Team members only found out this February that the state declined the opportunity.

If the opportunity were to have been accepted by the state and offered to Lincoln, coach Jonathan Pulvers commented that “Lincoln’s policy is that we work with students and parents to decide whether or not to accept [the Wild Card]. Competing at nationals is a seminal experience and we want our students to have that chance if they can.”