High school sports teams that win a state title get lots of cheers, but the shout-out this time goes to an academic champ in the Fort Worth ISD.
R. L. Paschal High School junior Zachary Jacobus, 17, is the best chemistry student in the state of Texas.
"All that time he put into chemistry finally paid off in the state championship," said Andrew Brinker, a science teacher at Paschal and the school's UIL science team coach.
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Brinker says the journey to a state championship began with nearly 250 high schools in 6-A and approximately 1,500 students. Brinker's team won district. Jacobus then went all the way to state, took a written test to prove his smarts and won. According to Brinker, it's been five years since a Fort Worth ISD school has had an academic state champ.
"It feels strange. It's a little bit surreal. I did not expect at the start of the UIL season to go to state much less win for chemistry," Jacobus said. "I've gotten an unexpected amount of congratulations from people, friends and even people I don't know very well which has been fun," Jacobus said.
The teenager is a humble champion. He says the written test had biology, chemistry and physic sections. There were 20 questions for each section with multiple choice answers.
His previous class in AP chemistry and all the studying had him in a good position. Jacobus admits he left a question about molecular orbital theory blank. He just couldn't come up with the answer. Yet, he still had enough right answers to win the state title with a score 14 points ahead of the runner-up.
"For this, I think I need to give credit to my AP chemistry and now organic chemistry teacher Mr. (Davin) Haley. He really last year sparked my interest in the subject. I loved that class and organic chemistry this year has been really great as well. So that played a big role," Jacobus said.
He's always enjoyed science but with Haley's enthusiasm, chemistry became his favorite subject.
"There's cool reactions that happen that are visually pleasing or they're shocking to see, sometimes there's vigorous reactions, explosions if you will," he smiled. "Part of it is being able to explain why those things, all types of natural phenomena occur, and that power of understanding why the world works the way it does."
Jacobus won't graduate from high school until next year and there's still college to go, but for now, he sees a future in chemistry.
"Right now, I'm hoping for college to be a chemistry major and then go into some type of research in the chemistry field, which usually requires a Ph.D. So right now, that's kind of my goal. We'll see if my interests stay the same or not," he said.