By Monica Chavan
On April 18th, the University High School Academic Team competed at the Indiana State Quiz Bowl tournament. Back in February, the team came in second at the White River Academic League tournament, thereby qualifying for the state tournament. In six years, a second place finish was the best the Trailblazers had ever done at the league tournament. At the state tournament, the team’s best finish was last year’s third place position, when it was also runner-up in the small school category.
The team’s journey at this year’s state tournament was eventful, to say the least. In the morning preliminaries, University went a disappointing 2-2, losing to one school that didn’t even make the afternoon’s knock-out tournament. Facing certain elimination if it went 0-3, the team finally regrouped for its third match against Blackford and won by a slim margin of 10 points. The Blazers then decided that they were going big or going home. They crushed their final preliminary opponent, logging a final score of 345-165.
University barely squeaked in to the afternoon’s knock-out tournament for the title. The Blazers ended up nabbing the eighth and final spot in the tournament, setting them up for a match with the #1 seed, Harrison. Harrison’s Academic Team program looks nothing like University’s. At their school, the activity is practically a sport – students practice 6-7 times a week and devote their lives to the buzzers. Needless to say, their program is highly successful; winning the state title was never much of a challenge for the multi-time national champions.
That Saturday, the Blazers took a page out of Harrison’s book. They went into the match-up as underdogs, but like Jordan Spieth at this year’s Masters, they took the lead early and never looked back. University secured the victory with a convincing final scoreline of 360-265.
Their next opponent was Zionsville, the #5 seeds in the tournament. The Blazers hung with the Eagles for two good rounds, but by the end of the third round were losing by 90 points. Though they had already won their first state title in the small school category, the team was down but not out. University was sparked by a three-question run by senior Kevin Bonar to open the fourth round, and the team punctuated the win with junior Christina Duffield’s “buzzer-beater” on the final question. The Blazers outscored Zionsville 150-35 in the final round and won by 25 points to make it into the championship match.
The championship match was against North Central. At the start of the day, the North Central coach had gleefully reminded the rest of the competition that his team would soon be playing in the finals of WTHR’s Brain Game for their fourth consecutive title. Motivated by the one-sided trash talk, the Blazers came into the match hungry for a title. They jumped out to an early lead and after a dominant second round led by 95 points. The team then answered 10 questions correctly in 60 seconds during the “lightning” round and entered the fourth round ahead of the competition by 135 points. After just 11 of the 20 questions in the fourth round, the team had scored enough points to guarantee themselves the state title.
University’s first “big school” state championship certainly came in dramatic fashion. What is most impressive is not how dominant the team’s victories were in the afternoon, but how quickly the Blazers were able to turn around their dreadful morning performances to make something out of seemingly nothing. There are many awesome sports clichés one could make about this title, but just remember: the 8th seeds aren’t out until you beat them.