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The Highlander

The Student News Site of McLean High School

The Highlander

The Student News Site of McLean High School

The Highlander

Triumph in Trivia

McLean Quiz Bowl wins VHSL State Championship
McLean’s Quizbowl team celebrated their victory in the 2024 VHSL Scholastic Bowl State Tournament on Feb 24. This victory was McLean’s second state championship to date, marking a momentous triumph over three regional champion schools within McLean’s population class.

McLean’s quiz bowl team won the Virginia High School League (VHSL) state championship Scholastic Bowl on Saturday, Feb 24. Not only was this triumph McLean’s second in quiz bowl history — with the first being in 2020 — but it was also a tremendous victory over Thomas Jefferson High School of Science and Technology (TJHSST), whose team bears a strong reputation.

“The first round of questions ended, and I thought, ‘OK, we’re winning, but it’s [TJHSST], anything could happen,’” senior quiz bowl c0-captain Andrew Evans said. “After we tied the score in the second round I was very surprised that we were still in it, because [the second round] has been a pitfall for us in the past…so I wanted to stay calm.”

In an intense match, McLean started off strong with a 40-point lead in the first and second rounds. McLean was poised for a remarkable and initially unexpected victory over TJHSST. As the competition progressed, McLean lost some of its momentum, allowing TJHSST to creep up the leaderboard.

“In the middle round, it’s questions that are directed specifically towards your team, which means that if you can get [the question] you get the points straight up,” Evans said. “If you don’t get it, it goes to the other team, and it’s [TJHSST], they’re going to get it.”

By the third and final round, TJHSST had begun to catch up so that the two schools were battling neck and neck. With just a couple of questions to make the difference between a win and a loss, nerves were high among the competitors and the crowd.

“You don’t think you could get that emotionally involved in a trivia contest, but I was trying to keep score on my iPad and holding my Apple Pencil and towards the end I [was] having trouble hitting the spot because my hand [was] shaking so much because I [was] so nervous,” quiz bowl co-coach and physics teacher Jeff Brocketti said.

Despite the tense atmosphere, McLean kept their cool down to the last question, with a crucial answer from sophomore Sam Cohen that decided the match.

“It was essentially talking about which specific diseases cause mucus to turn green, and I was able to remember that because science- and religion-based questions are more my field of expertise,” Cohen said.

While this win was significant for many reasons, beating TJHSST, a magnet school with a formidable record of 19-8 in the state competition, was especially meaningful.

“It took people a while, we didn’t start celebrating until a few minutes after the game…we didn’t think it was going to happen, we didn’t think it was possible,” Cohen said. “When they were going up to announce [the results] and they [said], ‘In second place is [TJHSST],’ the whole room gasped.”

McLean Quiz Bowl’s diligent work ethic and studiousness this year is reflected in their success as a whole during this scholastic season, as well as the VHSL championship. Coaches Brocketti and Lindsay Benedict, who is also the adviser of The Highlander, have played guiding roles in encouraging the players, but much of the team’s drive comes from the students.

“It’s not a fluke that we’re a good team and that we go [to states] every single year,” Brocketti said. “It’s because of the work [the students] put into it, and they grow throughout their four years, not just in a single year, by observing the older kids and [setting] great examples.”

Part of being an excellent team means rigorous prep both in and outside of school. In order to prepare for each tournament, the team holds regular practices twice a week, where they study sample questions posted online, as well as those from past tournaments. Outside of club practices, many members spend time reading high school or college textbooks to brush up on their facts.

“There’s this website that has a bunch of old questions from other tournaments,” Evans said. “So [the team] would get on a call every night the week before [states] and just run through questions on that.”

As far as the next steps of competition go, McLean’s quiz bowl team will continue to participate in local tournaments, as well as a national tournament in Atlanta which McLean qualified for earlier in the season. With this momentous victory over TJHSST and other high-ranking scholastic bowl teams, McLean hopes to enter the next few competitions with the same confidence and discipline they displayed on Saturday.

“I don’t think that there was a whole bunch to learn from [this competition], it’s just more [realizing] that we can actually [win]. [The students] know we’re a good team, they know the work to put into it,” Brocketti said.

The team’s victory marks a critical moment in McLean Quiz Bowl’s record after months of hard work and academic devotion.

“After the match ended, there were hugs and yelling, and just pure joy and exhilaration that I’ve never seen from them before,” Brocketti said. “It was something pretty cool to witness.”

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