The score was tight. Skyline was down by 5 points to Grosse Pointe North with time running out.
Skyline scores, and ends up on top in a thrilling contest.
What are we talking about? Football, basketball, hockey? Oh, no. It’s Quiz Bowl, where the best and the brightest of Skyline High School students take on other schools in a battle of wits and wisdom.
The Skyline-Grosse Pointe North matchup took place in December at the University of Michigan in a tournament curiously billed the Autumn Classic, and it was dramatic, intense, and even a bit controversial.
“We were behind, 265-260 until the last question, we buzzed in on time when the question was asked, and we answered correctly,” said Skyline senior Daniel Khain, who has been a Quiz Bowl member since he was a sophomore. “But they ruled that we didn’t answer the question in time, so they asked another question and we answered correctly again for the win. It was pretty exciting.”
So, were there high-fives and yelps?
“Well, you don’t want to get too boisterous, because we’re always thinking about what we would be feeling if we were on the other side of it,” Khain said. “It was more relief than anything else.”
Boisterous or not, make no mistake: Quiz Bowl – where four-student teams square off and buzz in when trivia questions in a wide variety of categories are asked – can get intense.
“Especially when it comes down to the last question like that,” Khain said.
Tournaments, such as the one in December at U-M, can include up to 40 teams, and emotions can oftentimes run high.
“The kids are passionate about Quiz Bowl,” said Jacinta Nafziger, a Skyline counselor who co-sponsors Quiz Bowl along with Social Studies teacher Joseph Bondroff. “And these are some brilliant kids. They amaze me sometimes with their knowledge.
“I just love being around them. I go to the tournaments, and I’ve got the best seat in the house.”
Neha Seshadri, a Skyline senior, has been on Quiz Bowl since she was a freshman and she calls the “collaborative atmosphere,” a perfect way to learn.
“You’re not being forced to learn, you’re there because you want to learn,” Seshadri said. “It’s not about grades or classes, it’s about fun. Especially when the rounds get heated.”
But even when the rounds are closely contested, sportsman is a constant, according to both Seshadri and Khain. No in-your-face behavior is tolerated.
“No matter how close the rounds are, it’s a handshake and a ‘Good job,’” Seshadri said. “And, even when it’s heated, the other teams are kind and we have discussions with other teams when we’re on break. It’s really a lot of fun.”
That fun reached some serious heights in 2016 for Khain, Seshadri and the rest of the Skyline Quiz Bowl members that year qualified for the National Quiz Bowl tournament in Washington D.C.
“That was great, because we not only got to compete with the best teams in the country, but we did a lot of sight-seeing, too,” Khain said.
Added Seshadri: “It sounds cliché, but it was really about the journey and not the destination. It was hard work, but to qualify for nationals was a great experience.”
There is a definite strategy to Quiz Bowl. The four-person team splits their “expertise” among the members. For instance, Khain specializes in American History, History of the Arts, Music and Mathematics. Seshadri, on the other hand, goes more for History, Geography, Mythology and Science.
But, even though both of the Quiz Bowlers have 4.0 grade-point averages, and there are National Merit Finalists on the Skyline Quiz Bowl team, Nafziger, Khain and Seshadri say all students are welcome to join.
“There are questions on celebrities, pop culture and sports,” Seshadri said. “There are a lot of fun categories.”
Seshadri gives special credit to Nafziger for her dedication to Quiz Bowl, and she also likes the fact that there are so many girls on the Skyline team.
“Quiz Bowl wouldn’t be what it is at Skyline if it weren’t for Mrs. Nafziger,” Seshadri said. “And, we’re different than most teams, who are male-dominated. You go to tournaments and it’s at least 80-20 boys to girls, but we have a gender-balanced team, and I like that. I think it’s a good thing.”
Sample Quiz Bowl Questions
(taken from www.naqt.com/you-gotta-know)
Q: What was the largest battle of the Revolutionary War?
A: Long Island (or Brooklyn Heights) resulted in the British capture of New York. William Howe defeated George Washington.
Q: Who was the PGA Tour’s leading money winner from 1940-42 and again in 1946 and ’48?
A: Ben Hogan
Q: In the category of Greek Mythological Monsters, who are known as the Father and Mother of All Monsters due to their numerous monstrous offspring, including the two-headed dog Orthrus, the Nemean Lion, the Hydra, the Chimera, and Cerberus?
A: Typhon (also Typhoeus or Typhaon) and Echidna.