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Out of 12 teams from schools in the Tri-County League, a group of Elizabeth eighth-graders won first place in a competition of the minds.
Two groups of Elizabeth Middle School eighth-graders traveled to Fountain Middle School to take part in the Tri-County League Knowledge Bowl, an annual competition, in February. They did battle on topics including history, literature, science, fine arts and culture.
“They’re an impressive group. They’re a pretty rock-steady group,” said their coach and social studies teacher, Lori Williams-Martin. The group composed of Natalie Yates, Cory Alexander, Logan McMullen and Ian Christiansen won the tournament-style competition by a single point. Another group of EMS eighth-graders, made up of Caden Fowler, Adam Rasmussen and Bryson Kolz, competed but did not place.
“They’re an impressive group. They’re a pretty rock-steady group,” said their coach and social studies teacher, Lori Williams-Martin.
The competition invites any student in middle school to train, which they did for an hour and a half each Friday. As the competition drew close, they split themselves into two teams.
“They were very strategic in how to put their teams together. It’s fun to see the kids in that light as opposed to class,” Williams-Martin said. “At the beginning I read the questions, then they take over. I kind of let them go. I sit in the back and eat cookies. They take ownership in it.”
At the competition, everyone takes placement test in the cafeteria, then the students are separated into four rooms and the knowledge contest begins. The battles are structured into a bracket like March Madness, and the four-member EMS team led every round. Parents, sponsors and siblings watched as the teams raced to buzz in first and then utilized their 10 seconds to confer and answer correctly. A question answered incorrectly is sent to the opposing team.
“It makes me nervous at the actual event because I know they know it. I just want them to do their best and when they aren’t able to because of speed or nerves I just sit and go `Oh!’” Williams-Martin said. “I try not to push them. To me it’s for fun more than anything for them.”
Williams-Martin took up the post three years ago when she heard the students needed someone to facilitate the preparation and competition, and since then she has watched some of her students compete for their entire middle school career.
Alexander, 13, recalled simple questions that stumped the group, and tricky questions that they answered easily. He said a trivia question about dentistry had everyone guessing dishwasher and braces, but the answer turned out to be “dental appliance.”
“When they gave us the answer it was so obvious then,” Alexander said.
“Because how many of you have braces or have had them?” Williams-Martin teased.
However, Alexander knew without hesitating the answer to which president kept almost a dozen eyeglasses under his hat while fighting in the Spanish-American War: Teddy Roosevelt.
A seemingly simple thing, like the style of buzzer, threw off the team when they arrived to find hand-held buzzers instead of the push-button type they had practiced with.
“It was all pretty intense and fun,” said Alexander, the history buff of the winning team. “After the second round, we were two points ahead of Cheyenne Mountain. After the third round, we were super scared coming out because we didn’t know how many points they got.”
The seven eighth-graders from EMS began practicing for the annual event just after Thanksgiving. This was the first year for three of the students.
“A lot of it is speed. Cheyenne Mountain normally wins; those kids are fast — super, super fast,” Williams-Martin said. “They had shirts and everything. They were real serious. We didn’t have shirts. We were just smart.”
Alexander, who was one of the students in his first year of competition, felt relieved as the scores went up, showing the team he was on had won by one point. The big win meant a celebratory dinner at Chick-fil-A for both teams.
“Even the kids that got last place had fun,” Williams-Martin said. “They were a little bummed, but they were fine after they got ice cream.”
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