ITHACA, N.Y. –– For many students extracurricular activities took a hiatus last year due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, that didn’t stop students from the Ithaca High School Quizbowl team from using the time to study up –– the team emerged from quarantine with such a strong performance that they have now qualified to compete in a national tournament this weekend.

On Saturday, May 29, the team will represent IHS in a virtual 224-team competition called the National Academic Quiz Tournaments’ High School National Championship Tournament.

This will be the 22nd edition of the HSNCT, and the seventh time a team from IHS has competed. 

Quizbowl is a competitive, academic, interscholastic activity for teams of four students.  Quizbowl teams use buzzers to answer questions about science, math, history, literature, mythology, geography, social science, current events, sports, and popular culture. 

The matches rely on team members being well versed in individual subjects, then combining their knowledge.  Participation in quizbowl combines lessons from the classroom as well as encourages players to develop new intellectual interests.

“It’s quizzing students on what they know, on what they’ve learned, on what they’ve learned in school and what they’ve learned about on their own all of the independent work that they might have done,” Coach Benjamin Kirk said.

The IHS team competing this weekend consists of Heewon Ahn, who specializes in history; Rohit Lal, the science specialist; Louisa Miller-Out, the literature specialist and Owen Mimno, the team’s fine arts specialist. 

The IHS Quizbowl team has a legacy of making it into national competitions –– most recently, in 2019, they made the playoffs and finished in fifth place.

However, this year has been different from those past competitions, with COVID-19 canceling last year’s finals and forcing teams to compete this season completely online.

“Every tournament this year has been online. Typically, the team travels to other elsewhere in New York, Pennsylvania. We go to the city metro area, New York metro area, northern New Jersey with some frequency just because our our team has historically been very strong,” Kirk said. “But fortunately, Quizbowl has worked in an online environment.”

Student Louisa Miller-Out said that while it has been great to be able to still participate in her beloved after-school activity, the challenge of moving her school life online has been real.

“I think the biggest challenge with moving online for both school and quizbowl has been maintaining concentration. And this is especially important for tournaments which run the entire day,” she said. “So I’ve had to do more things like drinking cold water and coffee, like moving around just to make sure that my mind stays alert because it can be really hard to focus on just a screen for sometimes eight to nine hours.”

Despite the challenges, the team is excited to compete after losing out on last year’s tournament.

“I’m definitely very excited,” Owen Mimno said. “It’s something we’ve been building up for all year…I’ve been studying a lot, and it’s going to be exciting to finally play in against some of the best teams in the nation. ” He added, “I think that will also be a very cool experience.”

Tournament results will be updated throughout the two days of competition here so everyone can follow along and see how the team does.  You can also follow #hsnct on Twitter.  

Anna Lamb

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at alamb@ithacavoice.com