Like a true Panther from Austin High School, senior Derek Olivas showed off prowess last week in San Antonio by earning first place at the Texas Math and Science Coaches Association meet.
Olivas, who has been named the All-Austin Boy, earned the top award in the mathematics portion of the state competition. He also earned third place Top Gun for overall points in the 5A category.
“I was glad I could finally earn that first-place spot my last year here at Austin,” Olivas said. “My team has inspired me a lot. They always push me to shoot for the best. I am thankful to them and our coaches. It’s a great feeling to represent your school at the state level.”
Competitors participate in four different areas at the meet: Mathematics, Calculator, Science and Number Sense. In mathematics, students have 40 minutes to answer questions ranging from Pre-Algebra to Calculus.
Olivas has competed at the state meet the last few years, but this is first top award in an individual category. He also placed seventh and eleventh in Calculator and Number sense, respectively. The team moved up from last year, taking home sixth place in the math category.
Teams from Chapin earned sixth in the Calculator category and ninth in Number Sense and Math, as well as other individual category awards.
Coach Jaime Martinez, who has watched Olivas grow as a student and a person over the last four years, was overjoyed when they announced the senior’s name in San Antonio.
“He really took off his sophomore year and placed second that year for his age group,” Martinez said. “As a junior he placed third, so we were hopeful he would get that first-place spot his senior year. It feels awesome to hear Austin High School being called up.”
The Mathletes team starts studying at the beginning of the school year, practicing afterschool and during any free time. Former mathletes serve as mentors for the team, providing studying and competition tips.
“I like to remind the team, you are following in the footsteps of captains that have placed at state and advanced beyond that. They see that can be accomplished so that motivates them to do better,” Martinez said. “We have had two mathlete captains go to MIT and one to Caltech. I hope this win continues to bring positive light to our school. We have a lot of really smart and talented kids.”
Although Olivas has fine-tuned his skills in high school, math has always appealed to him.
“It’s something I have enjoyed since I was young. It fascinates me because it’s present in everything,” Olivas said. “I find there is a beauty in solving a problem. You discover what the answer is and it all makes sense. It’s a very enlightening and good feeling.”
In addition to the Mathletes Club, Olivas is part of the Academic Decathlon team, Philosophy club, Project Apex, Teen Against Tobacco Use, National Honor Society and High-Q.
“Mathletes is something I focus on the most. It’s the club I have been part of all four years,” Olivas said. “I’m really proud to have been in Mathletes. They are what shaped my high school experience.”
He is considering a career in the biomedical field but also has an eye on a degree in risk management from UTEP. He hopes his team continues to excel after he graduates.
“I’m really proud of my team, and all they have done all these years. This is where I discovered my closest friends,” he said. “It’s not just a place where you go and learn math. It’s more than that. It’s a place where you go to build bonds of friendship and you get to learn things you are going to be able to take with you and bring it into the rest of your life.”