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On the senior team, Wade Maring, Covington Loftus and Hunter Cline run through practice questions.
Education: It’s still bowl season for academic teams
By Emily Topper
With mere seconds to answer questions, Waccamaw High School’s academic bowl team didn’t have time for doubt. Hands above the buzzers, they knew when to let their answers fly.
“A cast member speaking to an audience in a play is said to be breaking the fourth … ”
When they knew, they knew. In a practice with Brad Kibler, social studies teacher and academic bowl coach, Waccamaw’s six-member team correctly answered 21 of 27 questions.
Waccamaw High and Waccamaw Middle students have been exercising their brains and thumbs as they prepare for their respective academic bowl team competitions next week. The middle school competes Tuesday; the high school on Thursday. Both are hoping to keep their winning streaks alive: the high school has won four of the last five years, and the middle school has won the last seven years.
Brad Kibler, a social studies teacher at Waccamaw High School, has taken a team to the Senior Academic Bowl for the last five years. This year’s team is relatively young, comprised of seniors Hunter Cline and Matt Maixner, sophomores Wade Maring, Jack Congdon and Covey Loftus and freshman Jackson Barnes.
In his first year coaching, the Waccamaw team lost. Kibler is determined to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“One we lost,” Kibler said. “It’s burned into my head. That was the first year, five years ago. We were up by two games, and we lost both games in overtime by one point. That was crushing.”
The schools will compete in rounds of questioning on topics ranging from social studies to language arts to math and science before a winner is declared.
In the early rounds, students buzz in as much as possible. The buzzes become riskier as schools enter the lightning round, where a wrong answer automatically gives a point to the opposing team.
Still, the high school team has been preparing for months. The final six team members were chosen in mid-January from 20 who competed for places. By now, they’ve learned to identify their teammates’ strengths.
“Current events are really important,” Maixner said. “And then current events from 600 years ago are also very important.”
Maixner hasn’t competed with this team before, but was on the academic team in both elementary and middle school.
“I got busy during high school,” he said. “My class load lightened and I have a passion for it, so I decided to try out this year.”
“We turn to Matt for current events and economics,” Cline said. “We ask Jackson for social studies and geography questions. I’m the math one. Wade is there for fantasy and sci-fi-type questions. And Covey is for everything.”
Team members rely on information they learn in classes to prepare for practice rounds and the competition. They pick up additional facts through trivia games and reading. In competition, staying calm under pressure is key.
“You’ve got to keep your cool,” Cline said.
To prepare his students for the competition, Kibler uses questions from the previous year for practice.
“I have questions all the way back to the 1990s,” he said. “I have plenty of sets to choose from, but I chose these because they have the current events in them.”
On the junior team, Liam Steffen, Jake Besser and Steven Insignares confer.
The high school isn’t the only one brushing up on fast facts and quick math. At the middle school, Downing Hudson, the seventh grade social studies teacher, leads her bowl team in practice rounds after school.
Her team, made up of seventh graders Liam Steffen, Bradley Cahill, Jake Besser and Cole Jersek, and eighth graders Lilly Javoroski, Steven Insignares, Maggie Richardson and Max Congdon, is a bit more cautious about hitting the buzzer than the high school team.
“What fish has been the symbol of the state of Massachusetts?”
Hudson looks at the students. They have 5 seconds to buzz in.
A moment passes. The students tend to pose their answers as a question. Insignares takes a shot. “Cod?”
He gets a point.
The seventh and eighth graders had to try out from a pool of about 17 students to earn a slot on the team.
“I just thought it would be something cool to do,” Steffen, a seventh grader, said. “We try to answer the questions when we know them. Having seven right and 13 wrong is better than not answering any questions at all.”
Richardson is a veteran of the team and served as last year’s alternate. She encouraged Javoroski to try out this year. Congdon and Insignares were also on the team last year, but caught the flu prior to competition.
Still, the middle school team has had a string of successes. “We’ve won for seven years in a row,” Hudson said.
At a practice last month, they ran laps outside as a warm-up. They all share one goal: winning.
“They don’t think they’re nervous right now,” Hudson said. “But it’s a whole different ball game when you’re up there in front of a hundred people. Everybody will get a little nervous at first, but then they get going with the questions.”
The academic bowls begin at 4 p.m. in the board room at the Beck Education Center in Georgetown.