What a year for our Quiz Bowl team! Support them as they head to nationals this weekend in Atlanta by following them on Instagram as they host a takeover. Enjoy a peek of the action below, expertly written by coach Tyler Benedict.
“This man used scotchpak to make his Silver Clouds exhibit, and made Silver Car Crash as part of his Death and Disaster ser—”
“Fifteen. The low density of this body is not explained by the Condensation Theory of its formation. This body’s small magnetic field may have been generated by collisions, such as the one that created its Sea of Showers impact basin. The Ranger 8 crashed into its Sea of Tranq—”
“Ten. The 1638 Portsmouth Compact…”
There are seven or eight students slumped, slouched, or otherwise strewn across various beanbags, fuzzy saucer chairs, and carpets. The room resembles someone’s freshman dorm crossed with an elementary-school art gallery, or maybe an attic. Series lights dangle from the ceiling tiles, ensconced in pink paper lanterns. The bookshelves are in need of tidying.
“This city is home to the Tsing Ma Bridge, and more than 100,000 people live on its Lantau Island. This—”
This odd venue is the home of the Miami Valley Rams, two-time champions of Ohio middle school quiz bowl. The room belongs to English teacher Tyler Benedict, who stands behind his desk holding a sheaf of papers.
“Operation Neptune Spear was this event’s codename, while the codeword ‘Geronimo’ stood for its main objective. A chance for this event in Kandahar was declined due to civilian danger, according to remarks by Bill Clinton the day before the 9/11—”
“Killing Osama bin Laden.”
“Ten. Just missed power.” On two white tables at the rear of the room is the team’s buzzer system, a tangle of wires, buttons, and bulbs that resembles what you might see if you stripped the Jeopardy! set of its fancy podiums. Some students hold signaling devices, while others choose to forgo the technology in favor of shouting.
“This country’s Petsamo province was ceded to its eastern neighbor in 1922, but it recaptured much of Karelia during the Continuation War. This country’s Sami—”
“Finland.” This is mumbled around a mouthful of food. It is lunch hour.
And so it goes, question to question, answer to answer. There is a mechanical rhythm to the proceedings.
“Brave New World.”
A correct answer nets a player ten points, fifteen if they’re able to ring in before a certain point in the question (the so-called “power mark”). Questions are structured to be pyramidal: hard clues at the beginning to reward deep knowledge, easier clues at the end to boost accessibility.
The last five questions have gone to John John Groger, a tall, bespectacled eighth grader who serves as the team’s captain and leading scorer. Twelve days earlier, he finished as the top individual at the Ohio state tournament, besting 52 players from ten other teams. His brother William, one year younger and the fifth individual at State, grinningly pats him on the head.
“Good boy, Johnny, very smart.”
“This author wrote about a ‘tintinnabulation’—”
“Buzz, buzz! Poe.” This is Eleanor Peters, a freckled, angular literature specialist, fourth in the state tournament standings, also in the eighth grade. Beside her, her friend Shraya Sandhir (state #8) begins to sing.
“I’m just a Poe boy, from a Poe family…”
Jordan Bradstreet, seventh at State and the fifth Ram in the top ten, gets “Mercury” after “MESSENGER spacecraft.” Vera Menafee is able to nail down “Frankenstein” on the first clue (“told through letters between Margaret Savile and Robert Walton”). Sahir Kabir rings in with “Stalin” after “NKVD secret police.”
None of the students had touched a buzzer before the start of 2014. Sandhir didn’t officially play any events until this year’s state championship. And now, they are preparing to travel to Atlanta to test their skills against the 160 best teams in the country as they play for a middle school national championship.
“The Night Watch.”
The Grogers have nationals experience, as they attended last year’s championship in Dallas with current ninth graders Max Mader and Amay Kejriwal. MVS finished in a tie for eighth place in a field of 128 teams. The brothers have been waiting to challenge that mark all season.
“Despicable Me 2.”
“Come on, I knew that!”
The team will play eight preliminary matches on Saturday, May 7, hoping to win at least five times. If they achieve that goal, they will enter Sunday’s double-elimination playoffs, where they will buzz until they can buzz no longer. For now, though, the Rams eat their sandwiches in MVS’s Room 13, teasing each other about questions past, making up songs about long-dead writers, ringing in with “Mickey Mouse” when they don’t know the answer. Quiz bowl is, after all, only a game.