Scholars Bowl veteran on individual path to greatness

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN TOM STOPPEL
Peabody-Burns junior Jesse Riggs is a bit of an individualist who likes his occasional solitude. But one thing is for certain-whether Riggs is alone or with a group of friends, he’s always thinking.

“I like being smart,” Riggs said. “There’s just so much information out there and it’s helpful to know as much of it as I possibly can.”

Riggs recently completed his fifth year participating in Scholars Bowl competition and his coach, Crys Commerford, was happy he did.

“This being my first year (as coach), Jesse knew how to organize me because he’s been here and done that,” Commerford said with a laugh. “He’s one that I could lean on and he could guide me.”

Riggs, the son of Dennis and Brenda Riggs, said his life differs from many of his classmates.

“My parents have brought me up a little differently, I think,” he said. “I’m not exposed to the movies and music that everyone else has been exposed to-and sometimes that annoys me. But most of the time I enjoy being different.

“I’m kind of separated from my classmates.”

Riggs said it’s the absence of those distractions that gave him the opportunity to develop and pursue what’s become a passion in his life-reading.

“I got interested in reading early in life,” he said. “My parents encouraged it and I had a friend, Josh Fruechting, who got me interested in Brian Jacques books, the Redwall Series. I read a whole lot of those when I was younger.

“I’ve slacked off reading some since I’ve gotten into high school, but I just love to read.”

The ability Riggs possesses to comprehend and retain knowledge through books serves him well in Scholars Bowl.

“Jesse is very well-rounded in all subjects,” Commerford said. “He’s read a lot in his life and he’s just very worldly-he’s an active learner.”

Trivia is Riggs’ forte.

“I have a lot of knowledge,” he said. “I really don’t know where I got it from but I can latch on to television images and information pretty quickly.”

Riggs’ intelligence has also landed him on the top rung of the scholastic achievement charts at PBHS-the Superintendents Honor Roll-in each semester of his high school career.

“Good grades get you rewards and I enjoy doing that,” Riggs said.

This year, Riggs teamed with Andrew Topham, Jarred Weems, Ashley Elliott and Stephanie Vetter to comprise this year’s PBHS Scholars Bowl team.

“Mrs. Commerford approached us all and asked us if it was something we’d be interested in trying because she thought we’d do well,” Riggs said. “We didn’t do all that well in the meets we competed in, but Scholars Bowl is just a good time.

“You get to hang out between rounds and talk with everybody and the information they ask is just a lot of fun,” he added. “You can joke during the competition and if you don’t know the correct answer you can buzz in and answer something totally outrageous and get a laugh-I did that several times this year.”

Commerford said Riggs’ participation provided a boost for the entire team.

“Jesse’s presence on the team added an air of confidence for everybody,” she said. “Others looked to him and relied on him for his knowledge.”

Riggs said while most participants rely on a specific topic of expertise, his knowledge runs the gamut.

“I just know quite a bit about a lot of stuff,” he said. “You just have to pay attention to what’s going on around you and kind of soak it up like a sponge.”

Outside of Scholars Bowl, Riggs maintains the hectic schedule of a high school junior.

“I’m in the Business Professionals of America,” he said. “I participated at the state conference and took third in medical office procedures and that qualified me for nationals.

“That earned me a trip to Anaheim, Calif., in April,” he said. “Medical office procedure is medical document formatting, terminology and just general medical knowledge.

“It was something I thought I could compete well in,” he added. “It was a lot of facts and information I thought I could learn and retain and I guess I remembered enough.”

Riggs also finds time to play saxophone in the band.

Athletically, Riggs was a member of the cross country team last fall and runs the 300-meter hurdles and throws the javelin in track this spring.

Riggs’ favorite classes are mythology and forensics.

“I do a humorous solo this year,” Riggs said of his theatrical endeavor. “I perform a piece, ‘Guy Noir, Private Eye’ by Garrison Keeler from his ‘Prairie Home Companion’ radio show.

“I’ve made it into finals in each competition this year and in the last meet I took second place, which qualifies me for state championships in Wichita, where I’ll compete against the best in the state.”

Commerford said it’s Riggs’ inquisitive nature that makes him unique.

“Jesse is very curious, outgoing and imaginative,” she said. “He’s an individual and doesn’t care about what others think.

“He’s a joy to watch and be around,” she added. “He’s just a neat kid.”

Riggs said his summers are spent mowing lawns and competing on the Peabody swim team.

Riggs expects to go to college after he graduates.

“I have no idea where I want to go, but hopefully I’ll get to attend college,” he said. “I think I’d like to get into computer networking, computer programming or just something related to computers.”

Competing in Scholars Bowl will yield longterm benefits, Riggs said.

“It’ll help me throughout my life, plus I think it will look good on a resume here and there,” he said. “I think everyone should try Scholars Bowl at least once.

“Most kids think they’re not smart enough to participate and that it’s all smart kids that do it, but that’s really not the case,” he added. “It’s not about being smart, it’s just what you know.

“If you’ve seen something on television or read it in a little blurb from a magazine and you can retain it, you can answer questions,” he concluded. “Anyone can do that.”

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