“When in doubt, the answer is always John Stossel.”
Just how the investigative journalist and Libertarian news commentator fits into the success of Science Hill High School’s Scholars’ Bowl Academic Team is unclear, but what is evident is that the students’ strategy paid off this year.
Science Hill’s academic team placed second out of 51 teams in the PBS East Tennessee competition last weekend in Knoxville, the best showing ever for the Johnson City school, which previously had never passed the second round of competition.
The quiz show, filmed over the course of a couple of weeks, pits teams of high schools students against each other to answer trivia questions from a variety of topics from academia and popular culture.
Maddy Radaut, one of the team’s more enthusiastic members, was kidding about the Stossel thing, but said the true success of the team lay within the strong connection between teammates.
“I don’t think it’s about practicing, or how quick your buzzer reflexes are, it’s about gelling with your team and knowing what you’re doing and having confidence in yourself,” she said during a team meeting last week in faculty sponsor Ruth Jackson’s classroom. “You’ve just got to trust that your teammates know what they’re doing.”
In reaching second place, Science Hill beat several larger schools that have histories of success in the tournament.
In a particularly exciting round against Webb School of Knoxville, the team trailed at the half, but pulled off a come-from-behind victory late in the game.
You kind of get a runner’s high from it, but it’s a Scholars’ Bowl high,” Redaut said. “You get excited when you’re buzzing in and answering questions right.”
The team’s captain, Sajant Anand, said one of the highlights of participating in an academic competition is being encouraged to use accumulated knowledge and critical thinking.
“It was a blast,” Anand said. “It’s a great group of people, and it gives you a chance to use knowledge that you wouldn’t use elsewhere.”
Jackson, whose sponsorship reactivated the dormant academic team when she took a position at the high school, said the showing in Knoxville surprised even the show’s moderator, who congratulated the “small town” school on its performance.
“They really just went above and beyond everybody’s expectations,” Jackson, a math teacher, said. “It’s just exciting to me to see them get into it and do well at it.”
And the second placing isn’t the end for the team, the students qualified to take part in the national Quizbowl competition, which will be held in Chicago later this school year.
“This is only the beginning,” team member Devika Jaishankar promised. “We’ve still got a long ways to go.”
To reach the national competition, the team will still have to raise funds to pay for the trip.
On top of the exciting proposition of competing in Chicago, the team’s rounds from Knoxville will be aired on local television starting in January and repeat in June.
Viewers can look forward to appearances from the “Bowtie Brigade,” when the team appeared for their round dressed in jaunty bowties, and other highlights from their outstanding season.