WAHS Scholastic Bowl Team Heads to National Tournament
Western Albemarle High School’s Scholastic Bowl team is headed to the national championship tournament in Chicago on Memorial Day weekend after winning the Virginia AA division championship February 22-23 at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg.
Western’s Eric Xu was named to the five-person All-State Team for being a top point-earner.
“We have been on a run,” said team coach Eric Strezpek, who teaches American history at Henley Middle School. “We’re undefeated at every level of state competition, the district, the regionals, and now we’ve won our first Virginia High School League championship.”
Western’s team is now ranked sixth in the country, he said, and has been as high as the fourth spot.
Some 250 teams are expected to compete in Chicago. Last year the WAHS team placed 21st out of 256 teams when the same tourney was held in Atlanta.
“This year we’ll definitely do much better. We are in contention for the national title,” said Strezpek. “I am beyond thrilled. The kids are excited. We are fundraising now to be able to pay for the trip.” He said Brixx Pizza in Barracks Road Shopping Center will host a fundraiser April 15. Customers who mention the Western Scholastic Bowl team will send 20 percent of their bill to the travel fund.
The two-day contest in Chicago will see 1,000 students competing. “You play until you get a winner,” said Strezpek, who has coached the team for eight years.
“It’s amazing to see kids that are remarkably talented—and there is a skill to it—but are so dedicated to it that they become students of the game. Certain categories are predictable and you can study them and know them. It’s a question of speed. You get additional points for being fast. It’s a skill to know when to hit the buzzer. We have smart kids who love the game and do what it takes to win.”
One member of the team is a senior and the rest are juniors. “The best teams in the country develop teams in middle school,” he said. “We’ve got blue chip freshmen coming in.”
The contest format is essentially the same as that once seen on the TV shows It’s Academic and College Bowl. Fifteen toss-up questions where no consultation among team members is allowed are followed by other questions for the winning side, which can then confer over answers. Students train by competing in online games and by going over old question sets.
“Most of the time you have to know what you are talking about,” said Strezpek.
Western finished second in the state in 2013 and 2011. It also won the championship in 1998.