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The Zillah High School Knowledge Bowl competes against Selah and West Valley teams in a tournament held at Davis High School on Dec. 11, 2019. Members of the "Zillah 2" team include, from left, Audrey Harvoux, David Grigg, and Noah Harvoux.

Students from more than a dozen high schools throughout South-Central Washington gathered at Davis High School on Dec. 11 to compete in the season’s second meet of the academic sport known as Knowledge Bowl.

This winter’s series of competitions opened Nov. 20 with an afternoon meet at Cle Elum-Roslyn High School, with more matches coming up Wednesday at Toppenish and Feb. 12 at West Valley before most area schools gather for the ESD 105 regional tournament at Ellensburg on Feb. 26. The regional event will determine which local teams qualify for the March 21 state tournament, which West Valley will host for the second straight year.

From my experience, this program is nearly unknown around my school in Zillah, and most people, when asked about it, stop and ask, “What’s that?” In a nutshell, Knowledge Bowl consists of school teams of four to six students who compete against teams from other schools by answering various trivia questions.

Although it seems like a nerd convention in which smart kids show off the plethora of random facts stuffed inside their heads, it’s quite a bit more than that.

A typical Knowledge Bowl tournament starts with each team situated at its own table, waiting to receive a packet of questions and an answer sheet. The team has 45 minutes to work together and answer all 60 questions on the written quiz.

As soon as time is up, the score sheets are collected and teams are sent to designated classrooms for the first oral round. Four students sit at each of three tables in the room, with each table having a buzzer. One or two students can sit out for the first 30 questions of that round, after which player substitutions are allowed. A total of 60 questions are read in each round, and teams have 5 seconds to buzz in with an answer. The first team to do so then has 15 seconds to answer correctly to gain 1 point.

After the completion of the first oral round, students take a break back in the room where the written test was taken — and there are snacks! After scores from the written and first oral rounds are collected and displayed on a projector, the teams return to classrooms for a second oral round.

Now that the “what” question is answered, the next frequently asked question is, “Why?”

At first, it doesn’t seem like there’s much to get out of Knowledge Bowl, but I know from firsthand experience there are many benefits. First, being a part of this program is just super fun. I get to spend time with people who are like me and discuss topics most people don’t know about. Having friends and a great coach also helps make practice a lot more fun. During school lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays, our team at Zillah High School gets together to test our knowledge from what we’ve been learning on our own.

All of this practicing and studying, of course, leads me to the next big part of Knowledge Bowl: educational enrichment. Being a part of this group has challenged me to study harder and have a new perspective on school. Instead of a goal to just pass the class, I have a mindset to really learn the concept of a subject and remember it. In the end, this helps me achieve good grades and retain the information I may need in the future to answer a trivia question.

Knowledge Bowl is not unlike other sports in the sense that players have to work hard to win, and there’s more going on than what meets the eye. Like football, the game isn’t just about running with a ball, but rather it’s about strategy. Like soccer, points aren’t easy to rack up, and the players have to take advantage of the shots they can take.

Overall, Knowledge Bowl is just like every other activity: It’s an opportunity for students of like minds to come together and be involved in something that builds identity and character.

David Grigg is a senior at Zillah High School.