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A Celebration of Nerdiness: Pierson’s Quiz Bowl team vies for regional championship

Posted on 31 March 2011

Heller_HarborFrost 2011_6504 EDIT

By Claire Walla

On your marks, get set… think!

They may not have gym bags and they may not break a sweat, but Pierson High School Quiz Bowl Team members know what it means to beat the competition.

The team defeated the last three teams it was up against, and although Pierson was seeded second in its last round of competition, the team reigned supreme, ultimately out-ranking top-seeded William Floyd to secure a spot in the Long Island regional competition, which will take place at Half Hallow Hills West High School this Wednesday, April 6.

While it might not be your conventional field sport, senior Lindsay Warne (who also plays on the field hockey and softball teams) said the team functions in much the same way as your more traditional sports teams.
“Everybody has a role,” she said.

She and fellow senior Ben Lindstrom-Ives, for example, have a good grasp of history and English, while Connor Vorhaus is their go-to pop culture guy, and freshman Cole Severance (who competed this year with the JV squad, but will move up to varsity for next week’s finals) has a strong grasp of science.
Warne continued, “some people’s role is just getting the ball rolling and managing the team.”

Quiz Bowl works in much the same way a game show like Jeopardy does. Two teams, made up of at least four players each, flank a table lined with buzzers. In the first round, a moderator asks a series of questions and the first team to buzz in with the correct answer receives points. During the lightning round, each team is asked a series of questions related to a given topic — like literature, or medicine — and will have a certain amount of time to answer a set of questions.

The topics covered run the gamut from art, government, history, geography and even pop culture.

So, how does the team prepare to absorb such a great breadth of information?
“We don’t sit around and read encyclopedias,” said Warne, quashing the notion that being a good Quiz Bowl contender necessitates massive amounts of rote memorization.

“It’s not just about reading fact books, but actual texts,” Lindstrom-Ives added. “Reading widely in different genres is not essential, but it’s helpful. It makes your chances of being a good Quiz Bowl player better.”
In fact, Quiz Bowl Coach and Pierson High School history teacher Frank Atkinson-Barnes (Mr. AB) said practices are far from hard-lined conditioning drills.

“We just play games,” he said.

Modeling the format used during actual quiz bowl competitions, the Pierson team splits in two and players compete against one another. By going through the motions, Mr. AB added, players pick up on the skills needed to play the game — generating quick responses, knowing how to interpret questions, working as a team. The rest is up to the players themselves.

“These kids all enjoy learning, that’s the biggest key to success,” he added. “What they bring to the table is not so much that they want to get good grades, they genuinely like learning.”

And, really, they don’t mind if you think they’re nerds.

“That’s what makes it so fun,” said Warne. “It’s a celebration of nerdiness.”

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