Facts and figures – put to the test

Triopia Junior-Senior High School scholastic bowl team competes at state

By Julie Gerke

Photos/Julie Gerke and Submitted

They look like most high school kids: hoodies, notebooks, edgy jewelry, fashionable haircuts.

However, the 10 students in Nathan Doyle’s classroom are a high-fiving family of scholastic bowl scholars whose knowledge catapulted them to the National Academic Quiz Tournament in Champaign, where the Triopia Junior-Senior High School team competed against 30 of the state’s best bowl teams.

The team won its IHSA regional Monday night and advances to sectional play.

Scholastic bowl pits teams of five students against a team from another school, answering two types of questions: toss-ups and bonus. In toss-up, anyone from either team can buzz in with an answer on topics built around events or people. A wrong answer knocks out the team. The right answer gives the other team a chance at bonuses, or three questions on one topic, such as people with the last name of Lincoln. The team can discuss an answer before buzzing in and correct answers are rewarded with points.

Scholastic superiority can be helpful but isn’t necessary: Questions can range from physics to calculus to Taylor Swift. “Does it help? Yes. Does it need to be? No,” said Doyle, who teaches history. “It helps to have kids with different strengths.”

The questions are not easy. Examples from a recent hour-long practice included ones on a theorem of random variables; who exposed wasteful spending at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri (then Sen. Harry Truman); the cause of Lichtenberg figures on the skin (lightning strikes); identifying historical paintings by verbal description only (“Nightwatch” by Rembrandt, not “Nighthawks” by Edward Hopper); and naming the wealthiest man in the ancient world (Croesus).

“I like learning new things, regardless if they’re important or not,” said senior Riddick Workman, a four-year team member who wants to become a wildlife biologist. “I like to keep my brain active.”

Junior Owen McCoy joined the team as a freshman and quickly found it was a match for his interests in history, mythology, and classical art and literature. “Scholastic bowl is unlike any other competition or sport,” he said. “It’s always fun to see what you know.”

The Triopia team usually competes against conference schools (Routt Catholic, Winchester, Brown County, Greenfield, Pleasant Hill, Rushville). At the Champaign tournament, Triopia faced schools from across the state, including some private suburban schools. “It’s hard to know what to expect” when Triopia faces those teams, said senior Maggie Foster, the team captain.

The junior high team, also coached by Doyle, competes against Morgan County schools.

“The biggest thing I see, ironically, is not academic,” Doyle said, explaining many students grow socially and work as a team. “For some, this is the sport they play … They learn some things they maybe wouldn’t in a regular classroom.”

The Triopia Junior-Senior High School team roster includes seniors Maggie Foster (captain), Eli Stock, Riddick Workman and Blake Hutson; juniors Owen McCoy and Jeris Wankel; sophomores Nate Doyle and Lily McEvers; freshman Faith Wingert; and coaches Nathan Doyle and Ellie Vinyard.

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