Small quiz-bowl team makes big impressionDebbie Griffin photo A group of four senior boys at the high school has been answering the “call of the questions” as a somewhat unrefined Quiz Bowl team and doing very well at it. The River Falls High School Quiz Bowl team left to right: Trenton Mannetter, Evan Miller, Gabriel Johnson and Sam Quist.
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
A group of four senior boys at the high school has been answering the “call of the questions” as a somewhat unrefined Quiz Bowl team and doing very well at it.
The team has beaten the likes of Burnsville, Rosemount and Chanhassen of Minnesota. The foursome qualified for the national competition in Atlanta.
The National Academic Quiz Tournaments organization coordinates competitions, as well as teams, players and questions. Middle-school age through college-age teams can participate in Quiz Bowl competitions.
Gabriel Johnson, one of the four River Falls Quiz Bowl team members, was on last year’s team with older brother William, who gave his name to an NAQT representative. That started this year’s team.
Academics encircle Quiz Bowl
The River Falls team members -- Gabriel Johnson, Trent Mannetter, Evan Miller and Sam Quist -- confirm that the questions come from the plethora of academics they study in high school, as well as current events and pop culture.
Rounds have three sections and last about 20 minutes.
According to the boys, they can involve 60-75 questions. Two teams of four face off, each with buzzer in hand.
The first person to buzz may answer the question, which often reveal a few more clues with every few words.
Miller said Johnson and Quist are the backbone of the team, “Together on American history, they’re a machine.”
He said Johnson is really good with names. Mannetter knows his movies well and is also good at obscure math. Quist excels in literature, especially Russian.
All team members bring a good base knowledge of current events and pop culture.
Asked “in what topics does the team not excel,” Johnson quickly answers science and animal phyla (classification).
The boys openly admit to guessing sometimes. They say bonus and lightning rounds can quickly propel a team into the lead.
The Journal asked each team member about their most memorable question.
Miller said he was surprised he knew, “The answer was spider silk.”
Johnson said he got a pop-culture question that asked something like: In the ultimate showdown for the universe, it would take 17 tough guys to kick this one man’s “tail.” The answer was Chuck Norris.
Mannetter racked up big points on a bonus question and said, “It was my big moment,” to correctly answer Mexico City to a long and obscure question.
Quist remembers, “It started out “this famous real estate developer…” and referenced the person who’d owned the New Jersey Generals football team.
Quist said the answer was Donald Trump, which he knew from having read the billionaire’s biography.
Small but mighty
Johnson’s mom, Patrice Veit, said she’s been helping the team travel to and from its competitions. She has been impressed with what she’s seen.
“They just walk in and beat these big schools,” she said.
Veit said the school provides the team with a vehicle for travel plus paid $125 toward registration fees. She said the Quiz Bowl team operates self sufficiently -- especially compared to other schools with access to more resources.
The River Falls team doesn’t practice or do drills yet beats the schools that do.
Veit says the boys’ first-rate education shows, “You can tell these kids are academically prepared by the way they answer.”
One night she was standing next to NAQT’s national director who commented, “This is a real impressive team.”
The local team has already qualified for the national competition in May through its excellent standings in the Minnesota Quiz Bowl league.
The team’s record as of last week was 10-2. They’re ranked 11th out of 108 teams. Out of 688 teams, Gabriel and Sam are individually ranked as 29th and 44th, respectively, out of 688 competitors.
The Quiz Bowl team will work between now and May to raise the $500 entry fee as well as money to pay for airfare, lodging and food. It welcomes outside support.
Veit said the team has been in existence for three years and was started by an exchange student from Uzbekistan who’d done Quiz Bowl before. Nobody can be sure if the tradition will continue, but anyone can start a team online at NAQT.
High school Principal Elaine Baumann and Assistant Principal Rollie Hall both confirm that the school has a Quiz Bowl fund to which anyone can donate. People interested in volunteering to help the team can contact its adviser, Adam Villeneuve, at firstname.lastname@example.org.