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Reflecting on My Experiences as the Captain of the Quiz Bowl Team


This past Memorial Day Weekend, I sobbed on the floor of my hotel room. The quiz bowl “A Team.” consisting of myself and fellow seniors Hazel DePreist-Sullivan, Owen Linder, and Jacob Goldman-Wetzler, started its Nationals playoff run extremely strong. But we then lost two games we shouldn’t have, and our title hopes were dashed. We finished tied for 21st place.

To address the obvious first, even by the standards we hold ourselves to, t-21st is not the end of the world. A month before this tournament, we won the Small School National Championship Tournament (SSNCT) in Chicago, putting on an undefeated and dominant performance. This most recent tournament was now open to private, magnet, and massive schools, none of which describe Hastings. There are over 4,000 active quiz bowl teams in the country, the best of which qualify for the event, and the best-of-the-best of which (~130) get thrown into a double elimination bracket somewhat similar to March Madness in basketball. Even after two upset losses, we managed to pull t-21st, outplacing ourselves last year and finishing higher in a national standing than any team at Hastings in history on record.

Still, we set high standards for ourselves coming into the weekend, and we didn’t meet them, which sucks. In the moment, I felt like a failure to myself, to my friends in the community, and, most importantly, to my team, with whom I had been through hell and back with on our roller coaster of a year.

Just before Nationals last year, the four of us devised a plan to become one of the best teams in the country. Our dedication was unreal, and we treated our development like a classic zero-to-hero sports movie. We had a fantastic regular season followed by the SSNCT win, and we hoped to continue our winning streak and share even more glory with one another. We didn’t, and that’s why I cried.

But, after some much-needed reflection, I decided to come back down to earth. In order to do so, I compiled a list of reasons as to why I needed to get over myself. The purpose of this article is to share that list with the Hastings community and show all that quiz bowl has given me over the last two years. 

  1. Seriously, it’s one game: If I or my teammates tie our value as players to one unlucky playoff game, we understand less about our healthy, competitive, sports-like spirit than we thought we did. In 2023, Purdue was the best basketball team in the country. That didn’t stop them from losing to Fairleigh Dickinson in the first round of March Madness. If we’re going to talk the talk about our sports movie arc, we need to at least be consistent when things get tough.
  2. Playing quiz bowl has been awesome, and our placement in the tournament is the least important part: My teammates and I have developed a skill that far outweighs any trophy, and that’s how to be passionate. In high school, it has been such a privilege to be able to care about something so much. I enjoy learning things; quiz bowl is my outlet. Quiz bowl helped me through a very challenging junior year, gave me some lifelong friends, and got me into college. But even better, this was all a side effect of my passion and love of learning. Tying any value to our recent placement would reduce all of these amazing experiences.
  3. My team: Not only have I developed a passion, but I have three amazing people to share it with. I love my team, and no Nationals placement will ever take away from the bond we’ve formed.
  4. The season is not over: While the most recent Nationals is a larger tournament, there’s also a second Nationals of similar prestige: the National Scholastic Championship (NSC) in the DC area that we are attending on the weekend of June 8-9 (which is unfortunately in between this article’s deadline and its publication). The team has not played its last game together.

At the NSC, we could win the whole thing, or we could lose miserably, or anything in between. The point is that it doesn’t matter. I am so grateful to have grown up over the past few years with those around me in quiz bowl; I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.


Update (6/10/2024): We went to the NSC and placed 4th, an incredibly prestigious achievement. This was not only an amazing run of quiz bowl, but also an amazing last tournament with my team and my friends. After making the reflections above, our team’s mentality shifted, and we just took things one game at a time and prioritized enjoying the game and the company. It worked out, and it was great to end the season this way.

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