Let's get quizzical: Homestead team goes national

Colin McNamara/Special to the Town Crier
Homestead High School’s Quizbowl team placed 15th at the National Scholastic Championship, held last month in Chicago. Pictured, from left, are team members Brandon Herren, William Scott, Alistair Gray and Wade Wong.

Competing against nearly 100 schools, Homestead High School’s Quizbowl team placed 15th at the National Scholastic Championship, held June 10 and 11 in Chicago.

Homestead’s A team comprised Los Altos residents Brandon Herren and William Scott, along with Alistair Gray and Wade Wong. Herren and Scott graduated last month; Gray and Wong are entering their senior years.

Undefeated in their preliminary bracket, Homestead advanced to the Superplayoff bracket, competing for places ninth through 16th. A team’s performance in the preliminary bracket is a determining factor in its overall success at the event.

Homestead placed 32nd last year, which Herren said was due to weaker performance in the preliminary bracket, but “this year started off on a better note.”

Scott added that the team was more focused and experienced this year, and stronger both in teamwork and as individual players.

As the team progressed into the Superplayoffs, Scott said the competition became more intense. He found this bracket to be more enjoyable, as the teams were better matched in skill and each round could go either way.

Quizbowl questions are long, beginning with obscure facts before narrowing down to more common knowledge. Scott explained that during the Superplayoff bracket, they were “competing against the other team, not the clock.”

“If we are facing a team that we know is better than us, we’re more likely to buzz earlier and guess, just to give us a shot at getting the question,” Herren added.

Players who buzz accidentally must rely on luck, guessing the answer.

Herren’s best guess?

“I buzzed Hungary after only hearing five words in the toss-up, something like, ‘This country signed the Treaty…,’” he said.

During one Superplayoff round, Homestead tied at 300 with another team before winning the sudden-death tiebreaker.

Quizbowl tests competitors on a wide range of topics, including history, science, literature, fine arts, pop culture and mythology. To prepare, the team often would split up topics, assigning a specific player to each topic. During the school year, the team held two lunch meetings per week and online practices nearly every day.

Scott believes that Homestead’s A team is the strongest in history because each player is familiar with a different era. The team’s weakest subject proved to be mythology, Scott and Herren agreed.

Homestead initially tied for 14th with Dorman High School of Spartanburg, S.C., before finishing 15th nationally after a tiebreaker round. The team also tied for ninth place in the High School National Championship Tournament in May.

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