CHEYENNE â Students at Cheyenneâs Poder Academy charter school donât have classes in art, music and physical education like the other local schools â they play and study chess and tennis instead.
Next month, the 13 students on the schoolâs chess team are headed to Nashville to attend the United States Chess Federationâs Supernationals VI competition. That competition runs May 12-14 at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center.
Dominic Martinez, chess team coach at Poder Academy, said, âThey can get football, basketball, baseball â all the normal things â anywhere. But not too many of them are going to be able to play chess or see the game of chess or experience it outside of the school.â
This year, the chess team has participated in seven competitions so far, Martinez said. They have five trophies proudly displayed in their classroom: three first-place trophies and two second-place trophies.
The team is made up mostly of students in the second through fifth grades, but one seventh-grader participates as well. Martinez said Poder Academy is paying for all the elementary students to attend the national competition. The seventh-grader, Alexus Rivera, raised the money to attend.
Fifth-grader Sierra Schwarting is going to the national competition for the first time this year. She said she also has never flown on a plane or traveled as far away as Nashville.
She said she is excited, but nervous about how difficult the games might be.
Sierra plays often outside of school with fellow fifth-grader Mariyah Stipe. Mariyah said they have sleepovers and spend most of the time playing chess.
Mariyah went to the national competition last year, and she said she had a blast.
âWhen I went to nationals, I felt like Iâm finally accomplishing my goal,â said.
Last year, the team placed 15th in the nation, and Mariyah said theyâre aiming for the top 10 or top five this year.
Sierra said, âMy favorite part of chess is when I put my opponent in checkmate, because it just makes me feel good about myself (and) that I can conquer anything if I put my mind to it.â
Mariyah said she began playing chess with her father at a young age and joined the chess team at Poder Academy in the second grade.
âWhen I was growing up, my dad always taught me that itâs not about winning; itâs about having fun. And, to me, chess is fun. It gives me that thing where I can leave all the stress behind and play a game,â she said.
Martinez said the chess season begins in October and runs through May. The students practice during chess class, as well as after school on Fridays and sometimes before school starts in the mornings.
The kids learn chess through lessons and games, Martinez said. âWe do lessons more than anything else. But if we do lesson after lesson after…