ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
You never know when acting on a whim will pay off well beyond your expectations.
Last year, when the Hillsboro High School Scholars Bowl team was short on players, they asked Kelsey Kaufman to join them.
On a lark, she said yes and had so much fun that she joined the team again this year as a senior-and has it paid off with unprecedented success.
This year’s squad, led by coach Nancy Thomas, won four tournaments during the regular season, then finished third at league and at regionals before capping the season just two weeks ago by finishing third at state.
It is believed to be the most successful Scholars Bowl season in school history.
The team, which included Robert Jost, Greta Kliewer, Meredith Kliewer and Victor Rogers, also competed in the “High Q” quiz show co-sponsored by a Topeka television station and Washburn University. They placed third in Class 3A and 17th overall.
“It was a whole different format,” she said of the show. “It was just our team in a room with bunch of judges. They just asked us questions and we answered them.
“If we got a question right, we’d get four related questions where we could consult with each other and then answer. If you got your first one wrong, you’d just go to the next category.”
But the team’s success in competition wasn’t the primary reason Kaufman recommends participating in Scholars Bowl.
“It’s really fun because it’s really informal,” she said. “We just have a lot of fun talking about the answers. It’s not a big deal. We aren’t stressed out about it or anything. We just go with it. It’s fun to see what all we know and what we can accomplish by what we know.”
In Scholars Bowl, teams are asked questions from a combination of categories that varies from competition to competition. The categories include foreign languages, year in review, math, science, health, language arts and fine arts.
Kaufman said her strengths are in foreign languages, health and math, and then she tries to ring in whenever she thinks she knows an answer in one of the other categories.
Kaufman said having a vast wealth of knowledge isn’t the most important attribute to be successful at Scholars Bowl.
“You just have to have a really good memory-a lot of the stuff is really random,” Kaufman said. “And then you have to enough courage just to buzz in and answer, even though you think it might be wrong.”
Because the potential questions cover such a wide range of topics and possibilities, Kaufman said it’s difficult to really prepare for competition. But the team does practice once a week, sort of.
“It’s really informal-we just yell out the answers,” she said. “It’s to get our brain going.”
Kaufman said competition isn’t very stressful for her, but that’s not always the case for her teammates. As a senior, she tries to help.
“It’s probably hardest for me to get the other people under control because they’re the ones with the butterflies,” she said. “I just have to make sure that they’re OK and not stressing out about it.”
Aside from good memories and some keepsake medals, Kaufman said she has benefited from participating in Scholars Bowl.
“It’s given me a lot of confidence because it shows what I know and what I don’t know-which kind of humbles me,” she said.
“This year we have really come to be a team,” she added. “It’s not about individuals. It’s all of us working together to help win competitions and have fun.”