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 The situation that was unfolding was nothing new: last year's state championship was between Grant County and Mason County as well. In 2011, the Royal Pains from MCHS took the title with them to Los Angeles. Would history repeat, or could Grant County win the tickets to Philadelphia? Everything was on the line in the final match. As a previous state champion, I knew that Mason County realized what was at stake. But I also recognized Grant County's desire for redemption: although my team won in 2002, we came in last place in 2003. It wasn't pretty; I displayed emotions on that day which can only be described in proper company as “unsportsmanlike.” (And, in retrospect, I made the right choice to not punch that kid from Manual in the face.) Having my own team go from first to last in a one-year span was humbling, and it strengthened my resolve to win in 2004—to study harder, think faster, take smarter risks when answering early. That determination helped us win then, and these teams would need it to win now. The match started slow; several team-plus questions were left unanswered, and Mason was leading by a meager 10 points. Things picked up during the lightning rounds, as both teams surprisingly tore through difficult sets of questions about money management and carbon footprints. It was clear to me that both teams had prepared, especially Grant County, earning an astonishing 45 (out of 50) points. We were tied up again.