The countdown to the 2012 National LifeSmarts Championship is reaching its end. Students and coaches will gather in Philadelphia in just a few days, and they've all worked very hard to earn the chance to represent their states at the national level. LifeSmarts Alumni, NCL Board member, and current LifeSmarts staffer Seth Woods attended the Kentucky state competition in and sent us blog postings that we’re serializing for five days this week to give our readers an inside look at a state competition. Enjoy! By Seth Woods, LifeSmarts alumni Blog Post #2 By 2:30 p.m. on March 7 the Kentucky state LifeSmarts playoff bracket was set. McClanahan's fast buzzer finger earned Grant County 4-H the top seed, and the team would face 4-seed Bracken County (my alma mater!) in the first semifinal. I will admit that I was biased in this match: coach Clay King was my geometry teacher, and their captain Eyan Duncan had shown great skill in the first two matches. I was hoping my BCHS Polar Bears could push through, but in the end Grant County took the game 185 to 116, an impressive effort on both sides. The second semifinal was even more contentious, because these two teams had met earlier in the day. Mason County (which had slipped from first to second) faced Louisville's DuPont Manual, a well-rounded crew captained by Eliza Coleman. Manual started the day out of contention, but was able to claw back with a last-minute win over a capable Bath County team starring Emilee Skaggs. This match, though, was a battle of old war horses: since 2008, Mason and Manual have been the only teams to win the state title. Now one of them was going home early. The score was neck and neck going into the Challenge round, but Mason captain Amrita Srinivasan was on a hot streak by the end. Final score: Manual 104, Mason 171. Finally, by 4:00, it was time for the state championship, and everyone was exhausted. We had already seen ten fiery matches. I was physically and emotionally spent, and it was clear the students were pretty wiped out as well. But now we were finally there: two teams walked on stage, but only one would leave as champions.