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An Unexpected Athlete--The Scholastic Bowl Team Wins Through Wisdom

From left to right: Senior Dixie Lumsden, junior Cora Houston, seniors Gavin Roberts and Brayden Whitlow, coaches Mark Hatcher and Tammy Knick, and senior Duy Tran competed together during the Region 6A competition. Out of 11 teams, they placed fourth. (Courtesy Photo)

By Emma Duncan--Eagle News Editor

If one was asked to name a Varsity athlete on campus, quarterback and senior Eli Foutz, junior Hope Greer on the volleyball team, or senior cheerleader Maddy Holland would come to mind for obvious reasons, but one name rarely mentioned is senior Ben Dye.

“I think it's a little funny that I'm a varsity athlete because I don't really see myself as one, but according to the VHSL, I am,” he shared. “We follow the same sportsman guidelines, and I do compete in a competitive sport. Ultimately it doesn't really matter to me as I would still love the activity varsity sport or not.”

While Dye’s sport doesn’t involve a ball or any physical training, Scholastic Bowl is a competition of the mind where students work together to defeat their opponents through knowledge of subjects ranging from math and history to pop culture and (more traditional) sports. It differs from golf or soccer because the team only practices on Tuesday afternoons from October until December when their season truly starts. Scholastic Bowl (previously known as Scholastic Competition for Academic Excellence or SCAEL) has existed here for about 20 years, making it older than lacrosse and similar in age to the swim team.

“When it was SCAEL, there were 5 teams based on subjects such as an English team, a Math team, a Science team, a History team, and an [all-around] team. It has been Scholastic Bowl for about five years,” coach and math teacher David Amos explained.

In addition to Amos’ guidance, the Scholastic Bowl team is also coached by history teacher Mark Hatcher and English teacher Tammy Knick. Their roles as coaches aren’t all that different from that of a baseball or basketball coach.

“All three of us have subject specialties that we use when we are practicing. However, all of us work with the team in increasing their general knowledge,” Amos continued. “We come up with questions that are similar to the ones used in a match to help our students practice. We choose captains for our group who determine which students will play in a match. We all enjoy working with students and helping them be successful.”

According to junior Cora Houston, Scholastic Bowl junior captain, the coaches have a bigger impact on the team than simply giving academic advice.

“The advisors of the Scholastic Bowl team are always there to help us and encourage us to do our best,” she said. “They create a safe and positive environment during practices and matches. They each bring so much positivity and energy to each and every match and practice!”

Just like their coaches, each player has a particular subject he or she calls their niche. Houston reportedly favors science and biology questions. Senior Dixie Lumsden, on the other hand, joined Scholastic Bowl mostly to demonstrate her knowledge of literature and pop culture, but also because it can be seen as the high school version of “Jeopardy.”

“I’m not kidding when I say that I’ve been dreaming of [competing on “Jeopardy”] forever. If I’m not scheduled to work in the evenings I will be watching it with my family,” Lumsden commented. “I’d hope to be on the show one day. I don’t get too many questions right, but I think I could score some personality points.”

Whether or not Lumsden may be on “Jeopardy” is unknown, but her experience in Scholastic Bowl will certainly prepare her if she does, as the two mirror each other with their atmosphere and rules.

From left to right: Seniors Dixie Lumsden, Brayden Whitlow, Duy Tran, and Gavin Roberts prepare for the toss up round of their Scholastic Bowl match. (Courtesy Photo)

“In a match, there are 3 parts,” Amos explained. “The first is a toss-up round of 15 questions. Students buzz in if they know the answer. Students have 10 seconds to answer the question. Students cannot work together on the toss-up round. The second part is 10 directed questions. The team may work together to give the answer. The time limit depends on the kind of question. Most are 10 seconds but some of the math questions are 20 or 30 seconds. The third part is another set of 15 toss-up questions like the first. Categories can be anything from Math, Science, English, Literature, the Bible, current events, sports, Social Studies, music, etc.”

While the Scholastic Bowl team consists of just under 20 people, only four players are allowed to compete in each part, but members can switch out in between rounds. Each correct answer is worth 10 points, but points can be taken away for interruptions and wrong answers. Whichever school gets the most points at the end of the match wins.

Players and coaches both revealed that the team has had a very successful season thus far, and while they’ve known most of the questions they’ve been asked, one thing no one on the team anticipated was their senior night meet.

“Senior night did not go as planned this year. It was supposed to be our last home match against William Fleming, but we found out two weeks prior that they did not have a team this year,” Dye recalled. “To make up for this, we invited some of our favorite teachers to the banquet to have a teachers vs. seniors match and a pizza party. This was the highlight of the season for me, and I hope Scholastic Bowl adopts this tradition. The match was not even close, but maybe the next class of seniors will have better luck.”

As Houston explained, being a member of Scholastic Bowl doesn’t appear to only be about winning matches.

“The team's bond is really strong and we lift each other up,” Houston exclaimed. “We build each other up regardless if they get the question correct. [I love] being on the team. It's being around a lot of my friends and working together each match. Some of the questions asked are challenging, but it allows each person to think and increase their knowledge each match.”

While Houston has been on the team since her freshman year, Dye and Lumsden only joined this year. Nevertheless, they’ve created a similar bond with the team.

“I genuinely wish [I’d] joined sooner, but this is the first year I’ve started doing things for school and it’s great,” Lumsden shared. “I’ve made some good friends here and I genuinely think everyone is really cool. It’s a great environment for beginners! I felt a little nervous when I first joined but I honestly had no reason to be. If you have any possible interest in joining, I would encourage you to do so. It’s fun and competitive and time flies when you’re in there having a good time.”

Connecting with like-minded students isn’t the only benefit of joining Scholastic Bowl, though.

“Scholastic Bowl is a great extracurricular to fluff up your portfolio. It's a unique sport," Dye summarized. "Overall, I've had a lot of fun joining Scholastic Bowl this year, and many spots will open up next year as seniors graduate.”

Amos and the other coaches encourage any interested player to join the team to keep Scholastic Bowl going on campus.

“Even though we put it on the morning announcements, students do not try out. We wish people understood exactly how much fun Scholastic Bowl is before they become juniors and seniors! We definitely need more underclassmen,” Amos explained. “It is fun, competitive, you can expand your overall knowledge in many subjects, always learn something new, and you can use it on scholarships as a sport. [It's the] only varsity sport where you don’t have to run laps!”

Eighth graders, freshmen, sophomores, and juniors interested in joining the Scholastic Bowl team next year should reach out to David Amos, Mark Hatcher, or Tammy Knick.

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