Brawling for the Bowl

Grace Dekoker, Copy Editor

For most extracurricular academic teams, students are sequestered into one subject category. Scholastic Bowl does not follow that norm, as questions cover trivia from a wide array of topics. Chemistry teacher and Scholastic Bowl sponsor Eric Bjornstad said that the beauty of the team is the complete unpredictability.

“It’s not like you just memorize a set number of facts,” he said. “There’s a lot of things that get referred to [in competitions].”

Scholastic Bowl first became recognized as a national academic competition in the 1980s, and the IHSA recognizes state competitions from 1987 onward. The questions given to the scholastic bowl competitors stem from categories of math, science, language arts, social studies, fine arts, and miscellaneous. Five people compete at once, and Bjornstad refers to his team as a “five-man Jeopardy.”

“The trivia could be about anything,” he said. “Basically anything that could be asked about. Since it’s a team, there are questions that anyone could answer called toss-up questions.”

Despite being part of a team, teammates cannot communicate during the questions, Bjornstad said.

“In order to succeed, we not only have to be well-rounded, but work well together,” said team member Jimmy O’Connor ‘19.

They must know when to answer a question, but also when to step down and let another student take over O’Connor said. Without being able to speak, they must trust their teammates to answer questions correctly.  The dynamic is something that the team has previously struggled with, but has been improving on this season.

Team captain Alexander Kuptel ‘18 has competed since his freshman year. One of his wishes for 2018 is simply improving the dynamic of the group, a sentiment echoed by Bjornstad.

“We’re a team sport,” Kuptel said. “My goals revolve around team as a whole, not myself.”

Another goal is winning their sectional and advancing to the state tournament, and even placing in the finals, Kuptel said.

“Anything beyond that would be great,” he said.

Part of the focus of the team is constant improvement, Bjornstad said. Students practice once a week and study their events, as well as compete in mock competitions to simulate the actual testing environment and put the team to the test. One of the most rewarding aspects of Scholastic Bowl is seeing everyone make progress, Kuptel said.

“Literature used to be our weakest category; now it’s one of our strongest,” he said. “Teammates know when to step up, where to help out the most.”

There is no prerequisite to compete at state, but entering the finals will prove to be the biggest challenge Bjornstad said. The state competition will be March 16, with the team next competing at home on Feb. 13.