TJ Quizbowl triumphs at “It’s Academic” playoffs


Photo courtesy of Jennifer Seavey.

Left to right: seniors Nadège Aoki and Sidharth Verma and sophomore Ryan Golant compete at the “It’s Academic” playoffs on March 8.

Ellen Kan, Managing Editor

On March 8, the TJ Quizbowl team competed at the “It’s Academic” playoffs. The three-member team, consisting of team captain senior Sidharth Verma, senior Nadège Aoki and sophomore Ryan Golant, successfully edged out Gonzaga College High School and South Lakes High School to move on to the semifinals round.

Hosted on television station NBC4, “It’s Academic” is a TV quiz show that pits 81 high schools in the Washington, D.C. metro area against each other. Each tournament consists of three buzzer rounds, in which points go to the first team that buzzes in and answers correctly, and two directed rounds, in which only one team is allowed to answer at a time.

Episodes are taped in advance from September to May and then aired on Saturday mornings. The playoffs episode between Jefferson, Gonzaga and South Lakes will be aired at 10:30 a.m. on April 19.

The verdict of an “It’s Academic” tournament is sometimes uncertain until the last round, and the March 8 playoffs were no exception. Jefferson was tied with Gonzaga for first place until the last 30 seconds, in which Jefferson pulled ahead by one question. South Lakes also correctly answered the next question, leaving Gonzaga to answer the last 10 seconds of the competition.

TJ Quizbowl narrowly avoided going through the tie-breaker process when the Gonzaga team answered incorrectly, which helped Jefferson secure first place.

“Those last few seconds were definitely stressful for me, and I would assume that my team-mates felt the same way,” Golant said. “Winning this match was a pleasant surprise, and I would be quite happy if we manage to pull through the semifinal match victorious.”

“It’s Academic” is only one of three competitions that the TJ Quizbowl team participates in. “It’s Academic” only includes schools in the Washington, D.C. metro area, while Scholastic Bowl is restricted to Virginia High School League (VHSL) schools. Quiz Bowl is the format that Jefferson’s team focuses on the most. As a result, the team usually puts less emphasis on “It’s Academic” because their performance does not affect their national Quiz Bowl rankings.

“‘It’s Academic’ is a different format with different types of questions than our main circuit Quizbowl tournaments, so we generally don’t prepare very much for ‘It’s Academic’ games,” Golant said. “TJ Quizbowl has always looked at ‘It’s Academic’ as a fun side-event where it doesn’t really matter how we do.”

In past years, Jefferson has fared well in “It’s Academic,” but the team has yet to win the overall competition. The closest that TJ Quizbowl has gotten to the grand prize is during the 2012-2013 school year, when the team finished third in the final round.

Jefferson’s opponents in the semifinal round, which will be taped on April 26, have yet to be determined. TJ Quizbowl plans to focus on their speed, because “It’s Academic” competitions tend to require faster responses, according to Verma.

“We won the last game because we could come ahead during the buzzer rounds; everyone answered every directed question correctly,” Verma said. “That’ll be even harder in the semi-finals. We plan to practice for that specifically, something that we’ve never done before.”