Acton-Boxborough Trivia Team’s High School Quiz Show Competitors Make School History

After being eliminated in the first round of competition last year, the current team made it to the quarterfinals before falling to their counterparts from Rockport High School in a match televised on April 15, 2012.

Senior John Russell is one of nine ABRHS students who joined a school organization that, by its nature, demanded that they perform voluntary academic work each week.

In addition to homework assigned by their teachers, John and fellow members researched facts about a wide range of topics and brought related questions to twice-weekly group meetings. There, they tested one another’s knowledge about a wide range of subjects including literature, history, science, sports, and film.

“It may sound like work, but it’s really a minimal time commitment,” John said of the hour-long, rapid-fire quiz sessions.

The group’s initial focus was preparing a strategy for WGBH’s annual High School Quiz Show competition. The contest, a Jeopardy-like broadcast hosted by Billy Costa, invites teams from high schools across the state to go head-to-head with peers from other Massachusetts towns.

A four-member squad was chosen after statistics showed which Trivia Team members were answering a greater number of questions posed at meetings.

John, who became the team’s captain, senior Ken Davidson, and sophomores Tom Russell and Victor Pavao earned the right to represent their school.They were sent to a qualifying event dubbed “Super Sunday,” which took place in October.

This year, the team’s second participating in televised matches, they came out on top in their first challenge against Beverly High school’s entrants. They were then defeated in the quarterfinal against Rockport High School’s team.

John acknowledged that each match contains an element of luck; topics can be more or less familiar to particular students.

“Success depends a lot on the type of questions being asked,” he said. “A lot were favorable for our team,” he said of those posed in the first round. “Victor and I are geography buffs,” he added, noting that names of rivers, for example, come easily to the pair.

Susan Bohmiller, one of the team’s advisors, noticed that pop culture is a weakness for the team. After the last match, she gave the students some advice to combat that chink in their armor.

“Everyone needs to get People magazine,” she said.

Other elements to High School Quiz show that can affect performance, according to John, are anxiety and timing.

“Nerves play into it, a lot,” he said.  “And one team can have more answers but the others are able to buzz in faster and answer more questions.”

Bohmiller is proud of the Trivia Team’s achievements. She praised the contributions made by its captain and its alternates, Elena Johnson and Andrew Chang.

“We are just so thankful for John because he is an amazing leader,” she said. “We appointed him after he independently stepped up and took the leadership role. We like to refer to him as our king.”

“I don’t know what we would have done without them this year,“ Bohmiller said of Elena and Andrew. “Everybody is part of the training. If we only had the four students (who appeared on the show), we never would have been as successful as we were.”

John feels like he’s had “fifteen minutes of fame” after being on TV three times and having been recognized by an enthusiastic cafeteria employee who shouted his identity across the lunchroom to her co-workers. He encourages underclassmen to consider following in his footsteps.

“You’ll be given an opportunity not many kids have at this young age,” he said.

Bohmiller is optimistic about the Acton-Boxborough Trivia Team’s potential.

“Next year we’re taking it to the end,” she said.

Next up: The Knowledge Master Open, a remote competition that is scheduled for later this week.

With nearly half of its members graduating in June, the group is hoping to attract new members. Students who are interested in joining the AB Trivia Team can contact Susan Bohmiller at sbohmiller@abschools.org, now or in the fall.


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