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 next round in the state championship match was the team activity, and Heather Clary (our Question Master, from the BBB) looked at it in disbelief. “You have two minutes to complete this activity, start the clock,” she instructed, then turned around to the audience. She held up a sheet of paper covered in circles and arrows. “These kids have two minutes to explain how each branch of government checks and balances each of the other branches. I know I couldn't do it,” she smirked. “I hope they've been paying attention in civics class.” Based on the scores, it seemed they had—Mason County got a few more points, but it was still close. The Royal Pains led 73 to 66, which meant one Challenge question (worth 10 points each) could decide the game. This match contained 20 challenge questions, and by the time we had reached the final question, the lead had already changed three times. Grant County got nine right, and Mason another eight (if you do the math, that means only two of these difficult questions were not correctly answered). This kept the score very close: Grant 156, Mason 153. This was it. After all the studying, all the grueling qualification rounds, it all came down to the last question. “Why is it important to be thorough and consistent when completing the identification section of a credit---” Amrita Srinivasan, Mason County's captain, had buzzed in. Her answer, a very detailed response, perked the ears of everyone in the room. The question master looked to judges Doug Graham and Van Shepard for a ruling. If they said yes, then Mason would have made history as the first back-to-back-to-back state champions. If they said no, Grant would finally taste the sweetness of redemption. My heart was racing, my eyes darting back and forth between both teams, the coaches on the edge of their seats. Now, at the very end of an exhausting marathon competition, their fate was in someone else's hands. Then, after what felt like hours of waiting, the judges shook their heads.