Back in competition for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic and with a young roster compared to its rivals, Gadsden Middle School’s Scholars Bowl team is bound for a national tournament.
The team leaves Friday for New Orleans to take part in a preliminary round of the 41st Questions Unlimited National Academic Competition, which runs Saturday through Monday.
Gadsden Middle sponsor Sue Bliss said there will be about 150 teams competing in the elementary, junior (which includes middle schoolers), junior varsity (ninth grade) and high school divisions. Winners of this and five other preliminary rounds advance to the playoff finals, which are virtual, on June 10 and 11.
Bliss said the school hadn’t had a Scholars Bowl team since 2019. “I picked it back up this year and we went to local quizzes at Rainbow Middle, Emma Sansom, Westbrook and Glencoe,” she said. “And we competed in different invitationals at Russellville, Arab and Rainbow Middle.”
The team won the district competition at Gadsden City High School in January against competition from Etowah, Calhoun and St. Clair counties, and placed third in a field of 21 in state competition at Hoover High School in February.
Bliss said their opponents there had eighth-grade dominated teams, while all but one of Gadsden Middle’s squad is a seventh-grader. “We were one of the youngest teams there, if not the youngest,” she said.
Scholars Bowl questions cover a huge range of subjects, from English, history, math and science to music, politics, religion and current events. Bliss said her students all bring individual strengths to the table to handle that.
Team captain Latika Prasadh is strong in literature. Lowndes Robinson’s specialty is history. Andrew Nguyen specializes in history and geography. William Edwards is the go-to for science. Bliss said Grey Stephens and Hudson Ellis, the team’s only eighth-grader, are her “miscellaneous” duo.
Bliss said she’d hoped the team could compete in a National Academic Quiz Tournaments event in Chicago, but conflicts for some of the students prevented that.
“We’re excited and practicing hard,” she said. “We’ve tried to put in six or seven hours minimum of practice time a week.”
Gadsden Middle’s team will have to contend with a format change in New Orleans, however. It’s competed exclusively under NAQT rules this season, which features four-against-four matchups where students hit buzzers to answer questions. That requires speed and technical ability along with knowledge, according to Bliss.
The QU format also is four-against-four, but is buzzerless and is divided into four “quarters:”
Warmup Round: Questions are worth 10 points apiece; a pair of questions are read alternately to each team; if the first team’s answer is incorrect, the question goes to the other team.
Bonus Round: Questions have three parts and are worth 15 points if answered on the first clue, 10 on the second and 5 on the third; a correct answer earns the team control of a three-question bonus series ultimately worth 30 points; an incorrect answer gives control of the specific missed question but no bonus.
70 Seconds Round: Four categories contain 10 questions worth 10 points apiece; each category must be completed within 70 seconds; a team that answers all questions in a category receives 20 extra points; the opposing team has a chance to “rebound” by answering any incorrectly answered questions.
Stump the Experts Round: Same basic format as first round, but point values increase to 15 and 20.