South Whidbey High School excels at state

The South Whidbey High Knowledge Bowl Team show off their T-shirts commemorating this year
The South Whidbey High Knowledge Bowl Team show off their T-shirts commemorating this year's competition in Camas. The two teams finished third and sixth. They are (back row) Grant Neubauer, Marshall Banks, Dylan Fate, Ben Snow, Ian Maisanyi, Mark Arand; front row Jen Gemkow (seated), Daniel Shafer, Chris Mack, Jared Moore, Chris Nilsen, Hillary Mellish and Zora Lungren (seated).
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Greg Ballog

Brain power.

That’s what a group of South Whidbey High School students demonstrated in competitions that tested brains, not brawn. The academic athletes competed in state and regional championships for Knowledge Bowl and Hi-Q recently.

The two competitions are very different, but both are tests of knowledge. Knowledge Bowl is an unpredictable test of students’ total knowledge. Hi-Q participants, on the other hand, are given the subject matter before the competition.

This year two South Whidbey Knowledge Bowls teams competed at state, and the Falcons finished in third and sixth places.

The state competition is familiar turf for South Whidbey, which has sent students to the state playoffs the last six years in a row. The SWHS team finished fourth last year.

This is the second year on the team for sophomore Ian Maisanyi.

“I like the challenging questions and enjoy learning new material,” Maisanyi said.

He said there are ample opportunities to test his brain power before the playoffs.

“The high school has three Knowledge Bowl teams so we are able to set up practices throughout the year,” he said.

Zora Lungren, another team member, said she learns a lot of new facts. And the competition itself is a thrill.

“It’s a good way to test your general knowledge,” she said.

“The pressure of buzzing to give the answers is exhilarating,” Lungren added.

High School science teacher Greg Ballog coaches both teams, and said the Knowledge Bowl team attracts kids who like the game show atmosphere of the competitions.

“Knowledge Bowl is more extensive as far as the number of students who participate. South Whidbey fielded two Knowledge Bowl teams to the state championship that included 180 schools in the 2A division,” Ballog said.

In fact, from the North Puget Sound region, South Whidbey had two of the four teams qualifying for state.

To do well in Knowledge Bowl, Ballog said students need a broad base of general knowledge.

“Students don’t have any idea what the questions will be. Subjects can range from questions about sentence structure to history,” he said.

“They answer 350 questions from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. There are two other teams on the stage and it’s a race to the buzzer, and then a correct answer,” he said.

Hi-Q differs from Knowledge Bowl because students have to become experts in specific subjects from math and science to literature and geography. At the beginning of the year, the Hi-Q team is given the subject areas to study.

Each member of the Hi-Q team develops areas of expertise and team members depend on each other to carry their own weight in their field.

Hi-Q students studied four topics each, and each student had three specialty topics.

The areas they were required to learn inside and out were complicated, too, including subjects such as American history — Pre-Columbian to 1824, Roman art, animal tissues — the organs and nervous system, general chemistry and African geography, math (through trigonometry), physics, Shakespeare’s “Henry VI,” “Othello” and “As You Like It,” the 2006 Winter Olympics and World History — the rise of Rome and the Pax Romana.

This year they finished second in the first round of semifinals, which didn’t allow them to advance to the next round.

Ballog said South Whidbey has finished after the first round of semi-finals in Hi-Q for the last five years.

“All the kids worked very hard,” Ballog said. “Next year will be the year to place in the top.”

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