It’s the Super Bowl of quiz tournaments, and four Mira Loma teens will compete this weekend

Mira Loma High students prepare for National Quiz Bowl tournament in Atlanta

Mira Loma High School students prepare for the National Quiz Bowl tournament in Atlanta, Georgia.
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Mira Loma High School students prepare for the National Quiz Bowl tournament in Atlanta, Georgia.

Four students from Mira Loma High School in Arden Arcade will be throwing hundreds of buzzer beaters this Memorial Day weekend in Atlanta. There just won’t be any basketballs involved.

The students are heading to the academic quiz bowl High School National Championship Tournament, the Super Bowl of trivia. Questions cover everything from sports and pop culture to classic literature and biology. Students from Davis Senior High School will also be attending the tournament.

Last year, 352 teams came to Atlanta to compete for the championship. Teams will play seven matches on Saturday and three Sunday morning before playoffs begin Sunday afternoon. The top 48 teams will win trophies, and individuals will be eligible for awards based on their performance in the preliminary rounds as well.

Mira Loma team captain Rohan Shelke competed as an individual in 2018. Shelke, a sophomore, founded the Mira Loma team this year. The students said they are hoping that nationals will be an opportunity for the new team to improve its game.

“When you answer a question, you just feel good about it,” Shelke said, explaining what keeps him coming back to quiz bowl tournaments. He competed previously with Winston Churchill Middle School, a school that sent three teams to the middle school version of the championship this year. The A team placed second out of 176 in 2019, according to the championship’s website.

As captain, Shelke has been organizing practices and helping his teammates learn how to study. Team members specialize in certain topics, and Shelke said his team’s strongest are science, geography and literature.

They are not, however, as up-to-date as they could be on popular culture references, Shelke said. During their practice last week, one teammate read off questions while the other students played a three-on-three match. When the questions turned to a section about sports movies, all the students were laughing.

“I think very few people like actually watch sports movies or follow sports actively, so we’re not very good at that,” Shelke said.

Quiz bowls use a buzzer system, and players can interrupt the reading of a question during “tossup” questions. Tossups are answered individually – meaning the player that buzzes can’t consult with their team. But by answering a tossup correctly, the team gets a chance to answer three-part bonus questions, which allow more points but are usually more difficult.

The buzzers are what make the game exciting because they make the competition not only about knowing the information, but about being able to recall it fastest. Even at their casual, joke-filled practice, the Mira Loma students held on tight to their buzzers, anticipating slamming the red button.

The Mira Loma team usually practices once per week, but they have upped that to twice a week to prepare for the tournament. Shelke said that as a tournament nears, he usually studies an hour per day.

Studying is a top to bottom process, Shelke said. The basics come first, and then you work your way up to harder material. The team uses textbooks and Wikipedia articles to dive into their assigned subjects.

“The most important thing to studying is you have to be genuinely interested in the material you’re studying,” Shelke said. “If you’re not, it will be harder to remember stuff.”