JV Quiz Team Takes First at State Championship


Photo courtesy of JV Quiz Team.

The JV Quiz Team stands showing off their 1st place trophy after the competition.

Catherine Cossaboom, Editor

We’re all familiar with Trivia Night, but some Chamblee students take it to the next level. On March 2, Chamblee’s JV Quiz Team won the Georgia Academic Team Association (GATA) State Championship. Team members Yonatan Amsalu, Sanjeev Anand, Carson Ankeny, James Hardy, Vivien Orellana, and Aaditya Saha went undefeated, defeating Chattahoochee, Northview and other strong teams in the process. They were crowned the State Division II Champion. The team is coached by Mr. John Donegan, a seventh-grade social studies teacher at Chamblee Middle School who also served as the team’s coach throughout their middle school years. Donegan was very excited about the quiz team’s success.

“This was a really good win because the competition [the JV team was] up against was also very good,” said Donegan. “Sometimes, you can win a tournament but you know you’ve beaten teams that are not of the same caliber, but here we were playing schools like Chattahoochee and Northview that are really really strong academically […] It shows that Chamblee is ready to go against anybody when it comes to academics.”

Team member and captain James Hardy sees the victory as important for another reason. Hardy refers to the success of the middle school quiz team, which made it to the national tournament every year he was in middle school, and hopes that the high school will be able to continue this success.

“I think [our victory is] a really good omen because we didn’t have a program here for Quiz Team at Chamblee High until about […] Really, last year was when it picked up,” said Hardy. “And us winning JV is a really good sign, I think, for varsity, where we’ve not really in the past performed as well as we did in middle school think that when our current JV class gets to varsity, we’ll be able to do very well.”

The quiz team prepared for the event during practices held at the middle school by Mr. Donegan or run by students at the high school.

“We show up at either the middle school or sometimes we have to do it in the high school and be student-run with a supervisor,” said JV team member and sophomore Vivien Orellana. “We basically set up a buzzer system and we run practice questions for an hour and a half and then we go home.”

Hardy refers to a particular study guide the team used and the specialization of his teammates as reasons for their success.

“The National Quiz Team Association has these lists called ‘You Gotta Know.’ It’s a list of things that you ‘gotta know’ for competitions, so they have them in different categories like music or in general just fine arts,” said Hardy. “They have literature, history, science, whatever you want, so each person specializes in a different thing and they learn that thing. For example, Carson knows architecture really well.”

Donegan sees preparation as more of an accumulation of years of work.

”They’ve been preparing all their lives because Quiz Bowl […] It’s about what you’ve learned in life and in your classes and in every academic subject,” said Donegan. “They’ve dedicated themselves to academics since elementary school, but especially in middle school, where they had fabulously brilliant instructors who really cued them in and that’s what really made a difference.”

Donegan also views their success as a result of the students’ continued dedication.

“What else made the difference was they’ve continued to keep working in high school,” said Donegan. “Because there’s stuff that they’re learning and that they know and that they’re able to answer that we certainly didn’t teach them in middle school, and that’s definitely something that has mattered. The other thing that has been important is they’ve continued to work on their own […] They’re in high school and we’re currently in a transitional phase with regards to coaching, so they did an awful lot of self-instruction.”

The event itself is run by the non-profit organization GATA (Georgia Academic Team Association).

“The Georgia Academic Team Association is a volunteer non-profit organization of quiz bowl coaches from around the state, and each year, they purchase questions from a national organization and put the tournament together,” said Donegan. “This happened to be in Mary Persons High School in Forsyth, Georgia.”

This particular JV Tournament is run slightly different than other quiz team tournaments in that it is in a round-robin format.

“The divisions are normally like only eight schools. It’s possible to play a round-robin,” said Orellana. “Each game is […] I believe this time it was 18 toss-ups. [In a toss-up,] everyone sits down, five buzzers on each side, and they start reading the question. And if you know it, you can buzz in [at any time] and get the answer. If you get it right, you get the points and a chance at bonuses. If you get it wrong, the team can’t answer for the rest of the time.”

The team also receives bonus questions for getting the toss-ups correct.

“It’s one toss-up, three bonuses,” said Orellana. “So every bonus […] It’s whichever team got the tossup, then gets to confer and answer three bonus questions for three more points.”

Donegan is optimistic about the possibility of getting a coach at the high school.

“It’s hard to find a teacher who can have the time to focus in on the academic competitions,” said Donegan. “We would love to have somebody step up and say, ‘I would love to take on the quiz team as a full-time non-paying volunteer thing because I just love learning new things and dream about being on Jeopardy.’ […] I’m very optimistic that next year, we’ll have somebody taking on a bigger role at the high school.”

For the time being, the quiz team relies on the help of several high school teachers and the seniors on the team.

“We’ve had several teachers allow the team to practice in their room, and that’s been a big help,” said Donegan. “I have to give a shout out to the seniors, who really helped keep things together this year: Rohan Misra, Sam Lehmann, and Sifat Raihan. They deserve some credit for keeping things going, which I think really helped the JV group to win this particular tournament.”

Orellana enjoys Quiz Team because of the connections she is able to draw in her day-to-day life.

“It’s cool to see how much stuff you can pick up just through osmosis sometimes,” said Orellana. “And it’s nice to have at least a vague idea of what people are talking about when they talk about trivia. Literature, in particular, gives good references when your English teachers start talking about this book or that book.”

Hardy is passionate about history and saw Quiz Team as an outlet to dive deeper into the subject.

“I’ve always loved history, so it sort of clicked when I joined in seventh grade, as it is one of the major categories to study,” said Hardy.

The Quiz Team has also prepared for another event. On Saturday, March 16, Chamblee’s Varsity Quiz Team had their state championship.

“[The Varsity team plays] on Saturday themselves and they will have a tough schedule,” said Donegan on Wednesday. “They’ll play seven or eight rounds with Chattahoochee, Northview, et al and some teams that are very, very highly ranked nationally. I don’t think it’s widely known but Georgia is very good at academic bowl competitions. […] In this state, we have many competitive academic teams.”

The team placed 3rd overall in their division, which Hardy, who is also a member of the varsity team, saw as a success.

“The varsity state tournament was [March 16] and we placed 3rd in our division, which we’re very happy about, but we [were] aiming a little bit higher than that,” said Hardy. “The varsity team only has one tournament left, where we hope to qualify for the national tournament.”

As for the JV team, they’re looking forward to another season. The sophomores, Carson Ankeny, James Hardy, and Vivien Orellana, will participate in varsity meets next year.

“It’s been a great season and I hope to do even better next year,” said Orellana.