CONWAY — The Watson Chapel High School Quiz Bowl team won its third consecutive Class 5A state championship in a Saturday afternoon match with Little Rock Christian.
Watson Chapel’s team of four plus 10 alternates competed on live television in front of a large crowd of supporters in the studios of the Arkansas Educational Television Network on the campus of the University of Central Arkansas.
“Seeing this team of kids compete and win gives me an incredible sense of accomplishment,” Watson Chapel coach Ronette Metcalf said. “They are so committed to this team and to each other’s success. I am just so proud of them.”
The Watson Chapel team included captain Rhett Hunt, Andrew Fleming, Joshua Knight and Eric Williams, with alternates Maggie Young and Sarah Smith substituting for Hunt and Fleming in the third round.
The competition began with a toss-up round devoted to a series of 20 questions that were answered according to who hit their buzzer first. The questions were wide-ranging, covering topics ranging from poetry to mathematics to Greek mythology being utilized.
At the end of the first round, Watson Chapel led 100-70.
The second round combined the toss-up format with a series of six themed bonus questions for the team with each correct toss-up answer. The themes ranged from fill-in-the blank to events happening in April to Mark Twain. Watson Chapel secured the first two toss=up questions and ended the round with a 170-80 lead over Little Rock Christian.
Round three was a lightning round with the possible categories announced and then time given for the teams to make substitutions and choose their category.
Watson Chapel chose the category of musical instruments and substituted Young and Smith to take the place of Hunt and Fleming. The decision was a strategic one as Young and Smith were the designated music experts for the team.
“Sarah and I are both in the band and have a musical background,” Young said. “In the state tournament we were in two music lightning rounds. We swept one and also did very well in the second.”
At the end of the lightning round Watson Chapel led by 250-160.
The fourth round saw the return of Hunt and Fleming to the lineup and the continuation of a dominant performance with a final score of 340-250.
“The questions suited us today,” Metcalf said. “We have been competing almost weekly since the first of the year and during the week the team practices during lunch and after school. They are very committed to it.”
Metcalf said she was proud of Smith’s efforts as captain during the third round.
“It’s a lot of pressure to go up there on live television and serve as captain and time the answers,” Metcalf said. “And she is doing it as a 10th-grader. She handled everything very well.”
Metcalf said she tries to teach her team how to respond quickly to questions and to make educated guesses when needed.
“I tell them that the math they do in Quiz Bowl is not regular math,” Metcalf said. “It’s Quiz Bowl math which means you’re going to have to make some estimations.
“It’s knowing how to anticipate an answer,” Metcalf said. “Knowing things by dates is important. If they know things chronologically then they can make some determinations that allow them to eliminate possibilities that do not fall into their timeline.”
Metcalf said resources such as the Modern Library’s Top 100 Books allow them to memorize authors with their books as well as other key data.
“The school district really supports us and that has meant so much,” Metcalf said. “They have invested in us and it is well worth it. We are provided with a bus and driver to get us to our competitions. We aren’t in a school district where the parents have to drive the kids.”
Metcalf said she hopes she is living up to the legacy of her mentor, Linda Miller, who died in the fall of 2012.
“She was the Benton High School Quiz Bowl coach and she was my mentor,” Metcalf said. “She got me into coaching Quiz Bowl. I hope that when I die people say about me the kinds of things they said about Linda.”
Assistant coach Jaime Fox was proud of the team’s accomplishment.
“We have really good kids who worked really hard,” Fox said. “I’m really proud of them. I thought they played really well. Ms. Metcalf is an outstanding coach.”
“This is competition for all of us who don’t play sports,” game MVP Fleming said to laughter from his fellow team members. “Being on the Quiz Bowl team is being in a kind of family.”
Hunt was happy to be able to share the victory with the rest of his team.
“We’ve had our ups and downs,” Hunt said. “We are a dysfunctional family that loves and supports each other. The best part of all of this is being with my teammates.”
Eric Williams provided answers at several critical points in the competition.
“It’s a lot of fun being a part of this,” Williams said.
Smith said serving as captain during the third round was a good experience.
“I was kind of nervous at first but once I got up there with the team I felt fine,” Smith said. “The whole experience has been really, really fun.”
Joshua Knight, who will attend Hendrix College next fall, said he provides the team with knowledge of a more esoteric nature.
“I am strong in literature and mythology,” Knight said.
Jalen Mauldin appreciates the friendships that he has made on the team.
Sophomore Khadijah Jones followed in her older brother’s footsteps.
“He was on the Quiz Bowl team and got me interested in it,” Jones said. “I like the competitiveness of the tournaments and I like the players on the team.”
Rachelle Beggs is a team parent.
“I have a son on the team and his older brother was on the team a few years ago,” Beggs said. “I love watching them compete. I guess it’s been four or five years that I’ve been doing this.”
Jimmy Beggs said his time on the team has taught him things he wouldn’t have otherwise learned in school.