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WHS Knowledge Bowl wraps up 2014 season

The WHS Knowledge Bowl team poses for a group picture. First row, L to R: D.J. Berger, Patrick Burns, Orissa Nitibhon, Christopher Mayorga, Scott Schnieder, Megan Wass. Second row, L to R: Bryan Doeden, Kyle DeBates, Nicholas Demuth, Zach Clark, Alisha Cooper, Karina Cuate, Sebastian Licea, Kenneth Garcia. Third row: Gage Langerud, Samuel Burns, Cameron Jenson, Levi Blanchard. Brandon Stuntebeck is not pictured. Gordy Moore/Daily globe

WORTHINGTON — On March 11 and 13, the Worthington High School (WHS) Knowledge Bowl Team continued its annual participation in the sub-regional and regional meets. Three of the four WHS teams advanced to regionals, and although no team qualified for state competition this year, the season definitely ended on a high note.

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“I think we had a great year,” junior Nicholas Demuth said, “I’m slightly disappointed that we didn’t make it to state, but other than that, it was fantastic.”

Mentor Pat Rolfes, now in her ninth season as WHS Knowledge Bowl coach, concurred.

“I was very proud of all the teams,” Rolfes said. “We had a good showing at sub-regions and regions. It was a really good year.”

Knowledge Bowl is an interdisciplinary academic activity in which team members work in tandem to answer a wide variety of written and oral questions.

The teams, made up of five members each, all work together on the oral round. During the four oral rounds, four teammates compete at one time, with team members rotating in and out between rounds. Teams have 15 seconds to “buzz in” and answer a question after it has been read, with participants employing their fastest reflexes in an attempt to be the first to buzz in and have an opportunity to answer the question.

Knowledge Bowl is often compared to “Jeopardy!” although it’s often far more intense. Bright minds and furious competition often result in teams buzzing in after only a few words of a question have been spoken.

To prepare for their official competitions, the WHS team attended the Jackson County Central Invitational earlier in March. It gave the team a perfect opportunity to get a little taste of what real competition outside of practice is like.

“It was good to get out of the school to compete and give the underclassmen some experience,” junior Kyle DeBates said.

Added fellow junior D.J. Berger: “It helped us [and the underclassmen] realize that the team that wins in practice might lose in competition.”

The team of Demuth, DeBates, juniors Levi Blanchard and Zach Clark and senior Brandon Stuntebeck (Worthington 3) placed the highest of the WHS teams, earning a fourth-place finish.

On March 6, the team had their annual teachers vs. students pre-competition practice. All four teams went against several WHS teachers and captured a resounding 22-8 victory. Rolfes views this yearly clash as an effective and enjoyable part of the season.

“It is a good test of the kids, and they always look forward to teachers vs. students,” she said. “It’s fun for them to say, ‘Hey, they (the teachers) just taught us that,’ and then answer a question correctly.”

At sub-regionals, WHS placed three teams in the top 20 and two in the top 10, out of 46 total teams competing. Worthington 3 finished in sixth place and the team of sophomores Cameron Jenson, Bryan Doeden, and Gage Langerud, and juniors Patrick Burns and Orissa Nitibhon (Worthington 2) achieved 10th.

Meanwhile, Worthington 4 — comprised of Berger and sophomores Christopher Mayorga, Kenneth Garcia, Scott Schnieder and Karina Cuate — earned 18th. The team of freshmen Alisha Cooper, Megan Wass, Samuel Burns and sophomore Sebastian Licea (Worthington 1) finished 38th.

“Even though we didn’t make it to regions, it was really fun and exciting to see the other team (Worthington 3),” Wass said, adding, “I enjoyed the creativeness of the questions.”

“I’m happy for consistency,” Berger said. “My team has made it to regions for two years in a row now.”

“With new members, it is quite a learning curve, but their development throughout the year is always extraordinary,” Rolfes praised.

Filled with members new and old alike, this year’s team boasted 19 members — down a few from the year before due to graduation, but still thriving.

“There is a positive aura about Knowledge Bowl,” Rolfes said. “Of course, it helped that we had a team make it to state for three years in a row (2011, 2012, 2013), but I attribute it (the growing team) to the students and word of mouth. Kids want to show that they can do things in academics as well as athletics and other activities.”

After the sub-regional competition, the students had a one-day breather before heading to regions March 13.

“The competition at sub-regions and regions was pretty intense, as it usually is,” stated Rolfes.

The valiant WHS teams showed up ready to go, as two of the three advancing teams placed in the top 20 out of 39 total teams. Worthington 3 came heartbreakingly close to advancing to state.

“I think it’s amazing how close things can go —I can count it on my hand,” said DeBates of the final gap in points separating them from state.

The top three teams advance from regions to state, and the final tally left WHS’s top team in a two-way tie for fifth place with 80.5 points, a mere 2.5 away from achieving third.

While no WHS team will be attending state this season, Rolfes remains optimistic for what lies ahead.

“I am really looking forward to what they can do next year —I’m excited for it,” she said.

“Knowledge Bowl is open to any WHS student,” Rolfes reminded. The season starts in December and concludes in March or April.