No one gave the Henderson Middle School Chess Team a shot at winning the U.S. Chess Federation National Junior High Tournament last year. After all, it was their first time even participating.
But after surprising everyone by winning the whole thing, the team knew they’d have a target on their back when they attempted to defend their tile during the national tournament in Indianapolis this weekend.
The Henderson Chess Team earned their second straight national championship at the tournament, and are well on their way to becoming a dynasty.
“What can we say about this? I mean, proud can’t even explain how we feel about our boys and girls,” said Principal Elizabeth Maldonado. “These kids have represented Henderson and El Paso so well. They are part of something special.”
The 30-member team made a strong impression during the tournament, which included teams from private and prep schools, as well as teams with players who have been playing for years. Most of the Henderson team has been playing for less than three years.
Henderson won the national title in the K-8 Under 750 category and third place in the K-8 Under 1000 category.
The team returned from the competition on Monday night and were greeted by a large crowd of supporters at the El Paso International Airport.
On Tuesday afternoon, the team was back at work, practicing for what they hope will be a good showing at an international competition later this year.
“There’s no rest. These kids want to be here. They enjoy each other and they enjoy the game,” said Saul Ramirez, a teacher at Henderson and the head coach of the team.
The team has dedicated their win to their families and the entire Henderson community, but also to the hundreds of people who contributed toward the $33,000 the team raised to fund their trip to Indianapolis.
“We wouldn’t be where we are without the people of El Paso,” said Manny Tejada, a seventh-grader in the team.