The past four years have borne witness to the exponential growth of one of Ottawa Hills’ most undervalued clubs: quiz bowl. Having come into this season with an undefeated record in the Toledo league and an eighth-place finish at the Small School National Tournament, the club has exceeded its high expectations by upsetting last year’s national champions, Glasgow (Kentucky), and completely sweeping its first three tournaments to earn a top-40 national ranking. It was not until February of this year that the club’s A team suffered a tournament loss of any kind.
With this year’s national championships approaching and the regular season all but finished, coach Anthony Torio reflects on the factors behind its success and offers insight on the future of the program.
“I took Quiz Bowl over from Lauren Hurst sight-unseen; I had never known anything about Quiz Bowl. Basically, the teacher I was hired to replace (Claudia Evans) had done it for many years, and all the Quiz Bowl stuff was still in my room. Lauren Hurst could only do it for just one year, so I took it over after no one else would. At the time, junior Alex Cioc persuaded me it would be easy to advise as there were only two players left from Lauren Hurst’s national championship team left. We got a few others to join that first year, and played a few events including the TAAC tournament. I still remember going to my first tournament as coach – I didn’t even understand the rules or anything. Alex just assured me not to worry about it and that I’d catch on soon enough.
“Since I had no knowledge about Quiz Bowl, the first few years were really just low-key. We did play some events, but the focus was on hanging out at lunch and reading packets for fun. Slowly, more and more students joined, and the club grew over time.
“Over the years, as the club started gaining popularity, we started putting some respectable teams together who could compete well. I increased the number of events we did so that everyone could get to play, and that time also coincided with the two televised shows (WNWO Academic Challenge and the WBGU Brain Game) re-entering the local broadcast market. Our team was getting more and more attention, which attracted more and more interest and talent.
“After 9 years, I’ve gained experience and expertise, and I have a good idea now of how to run a successful competitive program. But we still have that foundational focus on fun first. And, my reliance on parent volunteer help has involved the parents to a large degree. Our teams have an amazing blend – good competitive results, and a tight-knit community. My players become tight friends, and so do the parents. Many stay in touch beyond their high school Quiz Bowl years. It’s not just the players who get sad when their quiz bowl years are over – the parents miss it, too! That’s been my proudest piece – we have something special that goes far beyond the competition alone.
“Now I can already look back with great satisfaction at what we’ve done together. I never thought we’d be able to get back to the level of that amazing 2008-2009 team that won the NAQT Small School National Championship – yet here we are, ready to contend for the title once again. It has been great to watch the generations of players I’ve had reach out to the younger players and pass along their skills and their passion for knowledge. I find Quiz Bowl kids to be so interesting and fascinating, and it was a world I never really knew existed before. I can surely say my adventure into the world of quiz bowl has been the very definition of serendipitous.”
The team will be playing Northview in the Toledo league championships on Monday, March 12, after school.