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Berthoud High School Knowledge Bowl team takes second-place at 4A state championship

April 01, 2019 | Education
Courtesy photo – Berthoud High School Knowledge Bowl team captain Kevin Schnedecker, flanked by Coach Kayla Steele (left) teammate Ben Domenico, Coach Laurie Brandvold, Ellie Sundheim and Abii Franke, holds the 4A second-place trophy Berthoud won at the 4A state finals last week.

By Dan Karpiel

The Surveyor

Knowledge is power.

The Berthoud High School Knowledge Bowl (BHS) team took second place in the 4A state competition last week at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. The competition was as fierce as can be and came down to the final question, answered correctly by champion Roosevelt. Berthoud finished with 198 points, each point earned for each correct question answered, just one point behind Roosevelt’s 199 and well ahead of the 185 points earned by third-place Palmer Ridge.

“They were on fire,” said Coach Laurie Brandvold. “These guys competed in a lot of the rounds on the first and second day against 5A schools. To have held in there and scored as many points as teams that ended up in the 5A championships speaks really well to this group, to their talents. (Co-coach) (Kayle) Steele and I are extremely proud of them. They’re not just valid competitors but they’re really good people.”

Berthoud sent their four-person “A” team to the state championships; seniors Ben Domenico, Abbi Franke and Kevin Schnedecker and a sophomore, Ellie Sundheim. The four traversed the grueling path of the two-day competition comprised of written and oral questions to bring home the second-place trophy, the best finish by any BHS team in any competition this school year.

“I think we were all pretty happy with the outcome. I think especially for the three seniors on the team, it would have been nice to have won, but it was a great battle, it was really just great to be in that place,” said Schnedecker, who served as the team captain after four years participating. “This has honestly been one of the best experiences I’ve had. I think this is my favorite extra-curricular activity that I’ve participated in and I hope to do something similar in college. It was fun and that’s really the whole point.”

The Colorado Knowledge Bowl is “a contest and celebration of knowledge and learning,” according to the organization’s website, and holds competitions throughout the fall and winter before culminating in state championships each March. The two-day format of the state championships has teams answering 60 written questions and 50 oral questions, with just a scant 15-second time limit to submit their responses. Questions are challenging, not simple trivia, and most involve some measure of problem-solving and piecing together information from multiple knowledge bases. “You have 15 seconds to answer, so it can be super stressful,” Schnedecker said.

As Sundheim explained, “I think from competing in this I’ve learned a lot about the interdisciplinary connections. There can be something we talked about in biology that ties into something from history and then you get a knowledge-bowl question that mixes the two together and you can answer them because you recognize them and all the connotations that come with them. It’s all about putting the puzzle pieces together.”

Schnedecker reiterated the same point, saying, “Over four years and you develop this knowledge base from all these difference classes is when you really start to gain your points. I know that I’ve definitely grown as a player over my four years.”

Like any competition, a great deal of practice is required in the preparation process. The Berthoud team practiced three times a week together, on Mondays and Thursdays at lunch and on Tuesdays after school, but all four put in a great deal of time on their own, studying and preparing for the competitions. To simulate the intensity of competition, the team of students will hold competitions against a team of teachers, with the teachers “usually winning,” according to Sundheim. Yet as perhaps an omen of what was to come, in their final practice before heading to the state championships, the team of students won.  

The students explained they learned a great deal about themselves personally and that was of at least as great of a benefit as expanding their knowledge base. As Franke explained, “For me personally, it taught me that I do tend to have not enough confidence in my answers that I should have, but at the same time it teaches me that I don’t know a lot of things and have more to learn.”

For students who could be interested in the Knowledge Bowl competitions but are unsure of whether or not to join, Sundheim said, “To anybody who is thinking of coming in, you don’t have to be an all-around expert. We can start with where you’re at and turn you into a knowledge bowl (player). Even if you’ve never done trivia competitions, never done academic competitions, there has to be something you know better than anybody else, and we can turn into a part of the team.”

As Franke said, “You probably know a lot more than you think you do.”

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