Katie Riley knows her stuff. The Huntington High School teenager knows history. She has such a good grasp of it and can analyze and articulate her findings and interpretations of long ago and relatively little known events so well that the teenager captured a gold medal at the State History Day finals in Cooperstown. Now it’s off to the national championships in Maryland.
Ms. Riley has won first place in local, regional and state competitions for her individual document category project titled “Women’s Air Force Service Pilots (WASP): Winning Their War.” The teenager’s research details the history of one of the least known stories of World War II.
The National History Day initiative draws thousands of participants annually across the state and country. The students compete in six different categories, developing projects around a national theme. The work of such high quality that winning on any level is a major achievement and something that gets more and more difficult every year.
Ms. Riley is a veteran National History Day participant, but that doesn’t mean she’s been on a glide path to the national championships next month at the University of Maryland College Park.
The teenager spent hundreds of hours researching her topic and perfecting her presentation. She’s sharpened different aspects of it along the way and impressed teams of judges who have evaluated it and given the junior awards.
“Being able to compete on the state level at Cooperstown is always a memorable experience for me because the town itself is so rich in history,” Ms. Riley said. “The first round was the most challenging because I was interviewed by a panel of judges. Discovering that I was one of four documentaries moving into the finals was exciting because I was able to present my work in a viewing room at the Baseball Hall of Fame Museum. Placing first in my category was an added bonus. I must admit heading to the nationals is intimidating, however I look forward to trying my best and representing Huntington High School.”
Huntington has never crowned a National History Day champion. A handful of students have won All-American honors at the national finals. Ms. Riley’s project appears to be particularly strong so this could be a special year.