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Brain explosion

"South Whidbey High School junior Hannah Shafaat (left) talks with members of the school's Hi-Q and Knowledge Bowl teams about who should go to the Hi-Q district championship this weekend and who should go to the Knowledge Bowl championship.Matt Johnson/staff photoSometimes, it is possible to be too smart for your own good.About a dozen South Whidbey High School students who compete on the school's Knowledge Bowl and Hi-Q teams might fall into this category. During the past five months, the two academic quiz teams have torn through district-level competitions as one of the biggest high school brain trusts in the 2A high school division.The South Whidbey Knowledge Bowl team placed in the top three of all 2A schools at three of four meets this season, qualifying for the state finals.At the same time, the South Whidbey Hi-Q team improved its lot from previous years by chewing through enough of the competition to earn a trip to the district championship.Under almost any circumstances, this would be great news. Unfortunately for South Whidbey, most of the Knowledge Bowl and Hi-Q team members play on both teams, which is a problem since both quiz finals take place today. This week, the players spent several afternoons deciding who would go to the Knowledge Bowl finals in Camas and who would travel to the Everett Mall for the Hi-Q finals.Senior Knowledge Bowl participant Thomas Gill said the choice would come down to who is best at what. The two competitions have different formats that favor some of the school's brainy students over others: Knowledge Bowl is a test of students' total knowledge and is not something for which participants can prepare. Hi-Q participants, on the other hand, are given the subject matter before a match and are expected to study.Gill -- a sports, Shakespeare, and American history expert -- said he wants to put his efforts into the Knowledge Bowl championship.We have the best chance at Knowledge Bowl, but we put the most effort into Hi-Q, he said.This is the first year either team has earned trophies and plaques for their efforts. Junior math whiz Hannah Shafaat, president of the club that fields the Hi-Q and Knowledge Bowl teams, said this year's brain explosion has been a long time coming.We've just had a great year, she said. The people on the teams are just inherently intelligent.Patrick Boyle, another junior member of the Knowledge Bowl team, agreed with Shafaat, saying the team's success is literally all in their heads. In past years, he said, the team relied on one or two unusually bright team members. This year, everyone is unusually bright.This year, everybody's a Mensa genius, he said.That intelligence didn't make it any easier to split the team. With team advisor Greg Ballog standing by, the team members wrote separate lists on a classroom dry-erase board Tuesday afternoon, moving the names of team members from the Knowledge Bowl team roster to the Hi-Q roster, and back again. They were determined to avoid the fate that befell Arlington. That school's Hi-Q and Knowledge Bowl teams also qualified for Saturday's championships, but for a lack of people, the school chose to bail out of Hi-Q and go to Knowledge Bowl. Fortunately, South Whidbey has enough people to do both, since it did field three complete Knowledge Bowl teams during the regular season.Gill said South Whidbey could do both, and even send its unified Knowledge Bowl Ouroboros team on to the national level.We consolidated all our brains, he said.By Monday, those brains will know if they made a good split. "

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