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December 18, 2014

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Rival middle school quiz teams prep for showdown

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Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Home News

While racing against teammates Miranda Rosen, left, and Ben Schlichting, right, sixth-grader Eric Lujan answers a medical question correctly during a Junior Varsity Quiz team practice at Bob Miller Middle School Jan. 27.

Junior Varsity Quiz teams practice

Junior Varsity Quiz team members Laura Prieto, eighth grade, left, Georga Harter, eighth grade, and Neil Banerji, seventh grade, discus the answer to a question during a practice session Thursday at Sig Rogich Middle School. Launch slideshow »

With a month left until their first competition, members of Bob Miller and Sig Rogich middle school's Junior Varsity Quiz teams are preparing for battle.

Miller and Rogich teams have been in the top three for several years, developing a fierce but friendly rivalry.

Miller held the championship title in 2005 and 2006, before losing to Rogich in 2007. Last year, both teams lost key players to other academic competitions being held on the same day, providing Hyde Park Middle School an opening to claim the title.

With the first rounds of competition less than a month away, Miller and Rogich students are planning to take back what was once rightfully theirs.

"We're a little competitive, can you tell?" Ben Schlichting, a Miller student, said with a smile during a recent practice.

Each time a question was asked, half the team rushed to be first to answer and jumped from their chair with a hand high in the air if another student gave a wrong answer.

"I know it, I know it!" students would say, urging the coach to pick them even if they weren't supposed to be active in that round.

In Junior Varsity Quiz competitions, teams of four to five students compete head to head in a "Jeopardy"-style format. Each student has a buzzer to signal they know an answer as they go through the three rounds.

The teams meet twice a week, where they work to develop nimble, speedy thumbs to press the buzzer, as well as developing an expanded knowledge of pretty much everything. The trivia competition covers topics including mathematics, geography, literature, history, physics and everything in between.

There is no official study guide for the competition, so students succeed by knowing everything they can manage.

The first competition is Feb. 28, and the top teams will go to the March 14 championship tournament, which determines the winners.

"I just feel so anxious. I'm so excited," Rogich student Neil Banerji, 12, said.

To get to the championship tournament and eventually nab a win, both teams will have to overcome a hurdle of new-to-the-team (but not the game) coaches and only a few experienced players.

Miller has two coaches, social studies teacher Sherry Chase and math teacher Richard McConnell, and Rogich has one, math teacher Gigi McCombe. In total, Miller has 12 team members and Rogich 10, each intended to switch between rounds in the actual competition.

The schools have similar styles for preparing, which includes the teams meeting after school Tuesdays and Thursdays for an hour each to answer questions and learn math techniques.

"My best practice is in here," Crawford Gates of Miller said.

In addition to the after-school sessions, the students spend time reading study sheets which have questions similar to those used in competition, along with more creative ways of studying, they said.

"We have study parties," Rogich student Victoria Puckoris, 13, said.

In those parties, they watch shows like Discovery Channel's "Cash Cab" or ABC's "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" they said.

There are also the less obvious ways to study.

"I actually pay attention to my classes now," Puckoris said.

Team members can't help but have an edge of competitiveness. Principals or teachers may say they just want the students to do their best, or to at least make it to the final round, but some students have their own goals.

"I want to win," Kota Cook of Rogich, 11, said with a smile.

Along with the will to win, McCombe is working to instill a sense of good sportsmanship in the mostly new team members. Competition leaders this year are encouraging that by offering a sportsmanship award, McCombe said.

Other than learning random facts and a sense of healthy competition, for some students there's a bigger benefit to the quiz club. Many have either developed old friendships or forged new friendships with people they otherwise wouldn't have known.

"We're all pretty good friends," Elizabeth Gong, an eighth grader at Miller, said.

Frances Vanderploeg can be reached at 990-2660 or [email protected].

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