Scholastic Bowl takes first place at regional competition, qualifies for sectionals


They be winning!

Zoey Heinrich

On Mar. 4, the Scholastic Bowl team placed first at their regional competition, qualifying them for sectionals. While this may seem like an enormous feat, it isn’t unusual for the team; in fact, they are currently ranked fourth out of 31 teams in their IHSA sectional group. Despite these recent successes, many students are unaware of what the team does.

Scholastic Bowl meets weekly to prepare for quiz-based competitions. At each competition, two teams are asked academic questions, and whoever knows the answer first “buzzes in” using a buzzer system. If their answer is correct, they get the chance to answer three bonus questions. If it’s incorrect, their team is unable to answer until the next question.

“It’s a lot like a team version of Jeopardy,” sophomore varsity member Justin Wytmar said.

During practices, the team divides in half to simulate tournaments. This helps them determine their strengths and weaknesses, both as a team and as individuals. According to coach Richard Russell, when competing with a group, individual strengths and weaknesses tend to balance each other out.

“We’ve got a relatively small team this year, but they complement each other very well,” Russell said. “Everyone brings something different to the table.”

According to Russell, practices are important because they improve team dynamics. By meeting as a group and learning about each other’s strong points, the team is able to refocus their priorities and make decisions about what to study.

“We’ve really figured out our strengths and what we need to practice,” senior varsity captain Emily Bondarenko said. “We put a lot of energy into making sure we know what to focus on.”

In addition to practices, most varsity members prepare for tournaments individually during their free time. While each team member prepares differently, a few methods include paying closer attention to art and literature and reviewing practice questions online.

“I made a spreadsheet with thousands of questions that could potentially appear at tournaments,” Wytmar said. “There’s a website where you can look through old Scholastic Bowl questions. Whenever I have the time, I transfer them onto my spreadsheet.”

Despite starting the season on JV and being the only sophomore to be moved up to varsity, Wytmar has been the overall top individual scorer at two tournaments this year. He will be competing in the National Academic Quiz Tournament (NAQT) individual championship tournament in Rosemont on April 7.

“When I was on JV, I was exceeding expectations by answering a lot of questions,” Wytmar said. “So, they decided to move me up to assist the varsity team.”

After placing seventh out of 66 teams at a preseason tournament, the team qualified to compete in the NAQT high school team championship tournament. Unfortunately, due to the high cost of transportation and boarding, the district is unable to pay for their expenses.

“Even though we qualified for nationals, we don’t get to go this year because it’s really expensive and we didn’t expect to qualify,” Bondarenko said. “It’s possible that the team will go another year, though.”

Although Scholastic Bowl is a competitive activity, competition isn’t its only aspect. According to Bondarenko, involvement in Scholastic Bowl exposes students to new information, strengthens their memorization abilities and encourages them to pick up new social skills such as teamwork and confidence.

“It’s important to be confident when buzzing in during tournaments,” Bondarenko said. “Learning to be more confident during tournaments can also help teach you to be confident in other situations, like when answering questions during class.”

According to Bondarenko, learning these social skills can be just as valuable as winning competitions. While gaining new academic knowledge is useful towards placing at tournaments, skills like confidence are useful even after the end of the season.

“There’s definitely a competitive aspect, but Scholastic Bowl is mostly about enjoying the tournaments and learning new information,” Bondarenko said. “It’s a good learning experience.”

Between their high rankings, skills gained and increased studying, Scholastic Bowl has arguably had one of their best seasons yet. According to Russell, the team is mostly made up of sophomores and juniors who will be eligible to continue competing next year.

“This has been a really good season,” Russell said. “I look forward to seeing what our team does in the years to come.”