Scholastic Bowl advances to state championships
Team places first at conference and regional tournaments to advance
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For the first time ever, the McLean High School Scholastic Bowl team has won both the Liberty Conference and Region 6A North tournaments this year.
“We were surprised and thrilled to have won…[We] have been devoting multiple hours a day to study…for these tournaments,” junior Carson Flickinger said.
Unknown to many, Scholastic Bowl is a VHSL-sanctioned academic activity, and has a similar status to activities like debate. The team is coached by physics teacher Jeff Brocketti.
“Scholastic Bowl is an all-encompassing academic quiz tournament,” sophomore Mara Kessler said. “Questions…range from physics, fine art, literature, history, chemistry, geography, music, current events, biological sciences, and much more.”
The McLean team has improved from its performance last year, when it placed second in their conference and fourth in the region, to first in both tournaments.
As a result of its improved performance, the team is now advancing to the VHSL state level championships, which are happening on Feb. 25 at the College of William & Mary.
“I’m so pleased to see how much the club has grown—not only in size, but in capability,” Kessler said. “I can’t wait to see what will happen at States.”
Scholastic Bowl team members spend their Monday mornings before school preparing for the tournament.
“It kind of sucks to get up earlier than normal, but it’s nice to not stay after school for practice,” sophomore Grace Chung said.
However, in light of their recent achievements, they have begun meeting more frequently.
“We’re preparing for states by holding extra practices, once or twice more a week,” Flickinger said.
In addition to the team time commitment, many members of the team work on their own to improve their knowledge and skills.
“We all practice on our own to enhance our knowledge—whether that be reading books, watching documentaries, making study guides, or growing through old practice questions,” Kessler said.
The format of Scholastic Bowl consists of three rounds. Two rounds have team members directly answer questions without seeking advice from other team members. The third round allows team members to cooperate to find the right answers to their questions.
The questions at Scholastic Bowl tournaments are known for their obscurity. According to Kessler, questions can be as complex as: “Particles in these regions can be approximated by a wave function using Slater determinants and the Hartree-Fock method. For ten points, name these regions around an atomic nucleus where electrons can be found.” (The answer to the question is orbitals).
Although the answer to the previous question is clear to those who have taken chemistry, the McLean team has had many challenges with this subject and others.
“Our team is pretty young compared to most teams…none of us have completed a course in physics, and only one team member has completed a chemistry course,” Kessler said. “This gives us a disadvantage.”
Despite the challenges the team has faced on its path to success, they maintain perspective.
“I feel very proud of my team for getting this far…it’s great to see that our work has paid off,” Chung said.
One of the major obstacles that the team has to face if they want to get the state title is Thomas Jefferson High School, which is known for its academic prowess.
“They’ve beaten us several times in scrimmages, but our bracket may not include them, which is reassuring,” Flickinger said.
The team, despite the different challenges they face, maintains an excited attitude about the state tournament and the possibility for further success.
“It is the first time our school has made it to the state tournament for Scholastic Bowl,” Kessler said. “It’ll be daunting playing at this level, but also incredibly exciting.”