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 “We can accept that answer.” And suddenly it was all over, the air rushed back into the room. Final score: Grant County 4-H 156, Mason County 163. The Royal Pains had completed their three-peat, and did so in truly dramatic style. They showed skill, intelligence, and courage—characteristics that will prove useful at the national tournament in Philadelphia. Perhaps even more encouraging was Grant County's response, a display of true sportsmanship: after one of the most heated matches I had ever seen, they were the ones that stretched their hands out first to their opponents. This gracious act touched me, because I wouldn't have behaved the same way. Even though I could see the despair on their faces, watching their last chance at victory disappear (since most of them are graduating this year)--they had nothing to be ashamed of. These teens showed wisdom and maturity beyond their years. I wished them all the best as they headed for the door – returning to their community’s rebuilding efforts following the recent tornadoes that tore through their county. And as the final pictures were snapped and the buzzers got packed into their boxes, I smiled, happy that I returned for another LifeSmarts tournament. I saw several familiar faces, and some new ones as well that will stay with me forever. This day reminded me that we all can learn something new, and our next generation can inspire greatness in us all. Next week will be my ten-year anniversary at the National LifeSmarts competition, and I can't wait to see what will happen next.