Meridian Star

Local News

March 30, 2014

Lamar scholars prepare for national History Bowl in D.C.

MERIDIAN —     A group of young men are getting ready to have their brain-power tested when they head to the National History Bowl Competition in Washington D.C. and Arlington, Va., next month.

    Members of the Lamar High School Quiz Bowl team, which also competes in history quiz competitions, will square off with at least 70 teams from all over the country.

    This will top a semester of wins for the teams, according to Becky Finan, team sponsor.

    On Jan. 25, the Lamar team won the Mississippi Regional History Bowl at Madison Central High School, beating East Rankin Academy, Madison Central, Murrah, Northwest Rankin, Warren Central, Ridgeland, and Jackson Academy.

    On March 20, the team won the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools Quiz Bowl competition at Madison-Ridgeland Academy, earning the district win over Copiah, Jackson Academy, and Jackson Prep.     That win propelled the team to the state championship, which will be held on April 25.

    The Quiz Bowl includes questions from all subject areas. When they leave the Quiz Bowl state championship on the 25th, six members will travel to Washington D.C. and Arlington, Va., to participate in the National History Bowl Championship that is being held April 26-27. As the name implies, that competition focuses on history-based questions.

    Four young men and two alternates on the team will compete at the national level: Christian Futrell, Karam Rahal, Daniel Fields, Christopher Hicks, Bilal Ahmed, and Kevin Oh.

    Other team members are Shahmeer Hashmat, Will Cope, and Devon Goszkowicz.

    "It's to promote history education throughout the U.S. and around the world to instill in students an appreciation for their past so it will serve them in the future by preparing them to be better leaders and informed voters," Finan said of the history competition.

    Christian Futrell, team captain said they prepare for competition by reviewing commonly asked questions in quiz bowls, but a lot of it has to do with what they have learned in school and through outside reading.

    Finan said as the team practices an hour each day after school, they are fortunate to have a buzzer system similar to what is used in competitions. That helps them improve.

    "I do believe the teams that do the best are the teams that practice," Finan said. "It is a reflection of your school, but I think how well we do is a reflection of the dedication of these kids coming every day and practicing."

    Karam Rahat said there is more to succeeding in these competitions than knowing the answers.

    "I think there are three things that go into making a good quiz bowler," Rahat said. "One is general knowledge and things you've picked up in things you read and things you study. You can study and learn more. Second is intelligence, just like — they'll ask you questions in very clever ways to see who is correct and who is the fastest to get it."

    The other skill needed is what the team characterizes as "buzzer prowess."

    "It's determining when to buzz; when not to," Rahat said. "That's what makes a good quiz bowler, but what makes a good quiz bowl team is knowing each other's strengths and knowing what to defer. We have very good unspoken communication."

    Team member Daniel Fields said questions are often asked in pyramid form with more subtle, obscure hints at first that get progressively easier.

    "But the down side to that is if you buzz in early and miss the question, then you lose points," Rahat said. "It's a matter of ascertaining when you should buzz in."    

    Bilal Ahmad said he enjoys the team.

    "This is my first year on quiz bowl and it turned out to be a lot more fun than I thought it would be," Ahmad said, adding that things he's learned in school are useful in competition.

    Will Cope agreed.

    "It comes up in other places, like — you never thought you'd use that Walt Whitman - Rhoda poetry collection and then they ask it in quiz bowl and you're like, 'Hey, I learned that in eleventh grade.'"

    In addition to the competition, Kevin Oh said he enjoys the camaraderie of the group.

    "All of us are friends outside of the team to, so we all know each other," Oh said. "We get to hang out together too, and form a bond as a team."

    Rahmat said they enjoy the friendships but get surprisingly competitive among themselves when they practice.

    "People will be screaming, laying across the table," he said.

    Contrary to what many people may believe about history and quiz bowls, Rahmat said not all questions are about ancient or even modern history.

    "We had a question about rappers the other day. We get questions about movies, pop culture," Rahmat said.

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