Middlesex students place third at national Quiz Bowl Tournament
Updated 11:18 am, Wednesday, May 24, 2017
DARIEN — It’s a hot Thursday afternoon near the end of the school year at Middlesex Middle School.
Many students head outside to cool off, but the Quiz Bowl team students converge on the stuffy cafeteria to rattle off the answers about current events as one of their coaches, Barbara Ivey, asks about the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, Russia cyberattacks and Ebola outbreaks.
It’s this dedication from practicing both before and after school that won five of the Quiz Bowlers third place at the National Quiz Bowl Competition in Dallas on May 14.
“This group is probably our second strongest,” said Ken Romeo, an eighth grade math teacher who founded and still coaches the Quiz Bowl team. “They did a fantastic job.”
Rather than sending the whole team to Quiz Bowl, the coaches send groups of five who qualify for nationals after placing in the top 15 percent at regional competitions.
This year, three teams of five students flew down to Texas. The students were chosen based on their performance during Quiz Bowl practices and their dedication to the team, Romeo explained. Practices are optional, so students who show up often are more likely to get chosen to compete.
“The more dedicated you are, the more likely you are to succeed,” said eighth-grader Alex DelVecchio. The 14-year-old has done Quiz Bowl all three years of middle school and went to nationals in Chicago last year.
DelVecchio’s specialty is geography. Once Quiz Bowl members reach seventh grade, they pick a subject they’re interested in to specialize in.
“It’s usually seventh grade when they find what they’re good at,” Ivey said. “We’ve been trying to get sub-subjects as well.”
For example, while DelVecchio is familiar with the monotheistic religions in the theology category, his teammate, Iman Onbargi, 13, is in charge of knowing the polytheistic religions. She’s also the team’s literature expert, reading books or studying Sparknotes to get up to speed. Meanwhile, seventh-grader Rhea Bhat routinely hits up the library for information on the periodic table of elements.
Regardless of their specialty, all of the students study questions from past Quiz Bowls.
That ability to remember them is in part because the students write down the answers to the past questions they get wrong in a notebook. According to DelVecchio, the most successful players go through multiple notebooks a year with the record standing at 15 notebooks.
In addition to studying past questions, current events and everything in between, the students said one of the key components of success is having a solid team.
“We build on each others’ strengths,” said DelVecchio.
“A lot of it is about trust,” added 13-year-old Bhat, “which you have to build.”
The students’ close bond made the trip with their three coaches and parents to Dallas that much more enjoyable. Bhat and Onbargi flew down together and studied beforehand.
“It was very funny,” said Onbargi. “We crammed until the flight took off.”
With preliminaries on Saturday and playoffs the next day, the students didn’t have much time to enjoy Dallas, but managed to visit food trucks downtown, as well as the Texas School Book Depository, a museum which once became a crime scene when President John F. Kennedy was shot in Dallas.
“It was a good experience” DelVecchio said. “We did a lot of good things and the time we spent together as a team was special.”
As many of the eighth graders head off to high school, they look back with pride on their last national team performance with the Middlesex Quiz Bowl team.
“I feel very proud coming in third,” Kehrli said. “We probably had the best team before us. They said, ‘No pressure,’ but there’s pressure.”
“They were amazing,” agreed Ivey.
Still, Middlesex also has bragging rights.
“This group is nice to each other,” their coach said.
“Other teams and people came up to us and said, ‘What a nice group of kids you’ve got!’ We’re very proud,” Ivey added.