Southeast Students Win TD Ameritrade’s Second Annual Collegiate Trading Competition


From left are Zac Rankin, Chelsey Winsor, Ben Asselmeier and John Racanelli.

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Nov. 17, 2015 – Four Southeast Missouri State University students won the second annual thinkorswim Challenge, beating 1,600 students from 166 colleges and universities in 44 states.

Zac Rankin, a business administration major from St. Louis, Missouri, John Racanelli, a social science major from Fenton, Missouri, Chelsey Winsor, an accounting major from Portageville, Missouri, and Ben Asselmeier, a technology management major with an option in computers/multimedia graphics from Chester, Illinois, won the four-week nationwide virtual trading competition sponsored by TD Ameritrade, Inc.

“This is the most exciting thing to happen to me,” said Rankin, the team’s captain.

The 2015 thinkorswim Challenge was held from Oct. 12 through Nov. 6, and was open to all students at postsecondary educational institutions in the United States. Each of the 476 competing teams started with $500,000 in virtual money to invest in real time using the paperMoney® program on TD Ameritrade’s thinkorswim platform. Prizes were awarded to the top team whose portfolio had the highest percentage gains in aggregate value at the end of each trading week. The three teams with the highest percentage gain overall were also awarded prizes at the close of the competition, as were their respective schools.


From left are Dr. Gerald McDougall, interim provost; Dr. Brad Deken, chair of the Department of Polytechnic Studies; Mary Ryan of thinkorswim by TD Ameritrade; Zac Rankin; Chelsey Winsor; Ben Asselmeier; John Racanelli; Dr. Ben Dow, professor of finance; Dr. Rebecca Summary, chair of the Department of Economics and Finance; and Dr. Gary Johnson, interim dean of the Harrison College of Business.

“There is nothing like trading in a real-life environment,” said Nicole Sherrod, managing director at TD Ameritrade who heads the firm’s young investors program. “The thinkorswim Challenge provides an unparalleled experience for students to try investing with the paperMoney® safety net but with all the real activity like earnings announcements, breaking news and other events that shape the direction of the markets every minute of every day. There is no substitute.”

Calling themselves Gettin’ Paper, the Southeast students won the competition outright, boasting a 162.50 percent portfolio gain and a final portfolio value of $1,312,521 after four weeks of trading.

Rankin says much of their success was due to taking big risks.

“We were taking long shots every step of the way,” he said. “There wasn’t a time we weren’t losing money, but it was worth it. You’ve got to make a big move.”

The team’s strategy consisted of directional calls and puts, using technical analysis and earnings reports and focusing their trades on options.

While they knew they were taking risk and would probably follow a different strategy in real life, they all agree it was a worthwhile learning experience.

“I thought it was pretty cool competition,” said Asselmeier. “We went into it not knowing much about the stocks, learned a lot and it was great to be a part of it all.”

Their strategy paid off, taking them from one of the last ranked teams after week one to first place at the end. Their biggest break occurred during week two, purchasing an index fund for 3 cents and selling it later for $1.42 a share.

“One of the most important things I learned from this experience is that you can’t give up,” said Rankin. “The Challenge was like a roller coaster ride, just like the stock market. But you have to have patience and keep fighting.”

Each member of the winning team received $3,500 to be deposited into his or her own TD Ameritrade brokerage account. The students won $3,000 as the prize for winning the Challenge overall and $500 for winning week two of the competition. As the school affiliated with the overall winning team, Southeast received $30,000 from TD Ameritrade for its role in teaching students about the importance of investing.

“The Harrison College of Business congratulates Captain Rankin and his team for their victory in the TD Ameritrade thinkorswim Challenge,” said Dr. Gary G. Johnson, interim dean of the Donald L. Harrison College of Business. “Navigating the investing world of ‘puts and calls’ is a challenge in the classroom, but to apply that understanding in actual trades is a monumental accomplishment. To accumulate the most profit in the four-week period when competing with some of the best students at some of the best universities makes the reward that much sweeter.”

Johnson praised finance professor Dr. Ben Dow for his role in bringing this contest to the attention of the students and encouraging them to participate.

“Clearly, Dr. Dow’s motivating influence was critical to the students’ success, and more broadly, the students truly represent Southeast’s ‘Will to Do,’” added Johnson.