Knowledgable students find their niche on competitive, academic team


Ava Azadegan

Senior Danny Letscher (right) and junior Ryan Kelly (left) work together to answer questions on BSM’s A team.

Eric Wagner and Aidan O'Driscoll

After school, grouped into teams of four, contemplating their next answer for one of the miscellaneous and utterly confusing questions they have to answer, sits the Knowledge Bowl team. Whether they are practicing, competing, or traveling to McDonalds after a meet, the teammates are always having a good time.

Knowledge Bowl is a trivia game, where teams are split into groups of four and have to “buzz” in after they are asked a question. Along with the Knowledge Bowl competitions, they play Quiz Bowl––an individual game where each person has to buzz in without the help of their team. With each answer they get correct, they earn points for their team. “Knowledge Bowl is designed for students who are busy, but talented. There is a low stress level, and we like it to be a fun thing to do,” Mr. Tom Backen said.

For the past 15 years, senior high students have been competing on the Knowledge Bowl team, and Mr. Backen has been head coaching them for six years along with Mr. Ted Reiff for the past four years. “I’ve done Knowledge Bowl for awhile now–I’ve coached at other schools so when I started at BSM, I asked Mr. Backen if he needed some help. It’s a lot of fun, I really enjoy hanging out with the Knowledge Bowl students and coaches,” Mr. Reiff said.

In practice, the team tries to reproduce the competitive atmosphere of a meet by quizzing each other on practice questions as well as studying the strategy that goes in Knowledge Bowl. “[We go over] when to buzz in or dissecting questions to determine the most probable answer. The teams that can buzz in first have a significant advantage––a lot of the questions never get read in their entirety so knowing how to cut up a question is important,” Mr. Reiff said.

The Knowledge Bowl team is typically sought after for the fun and social atmosphere. Nolan Ahlm was inspired to join Knowledge Bowl after watching his brother participate in it. “I was just looking for a good time, and I found it in knowledge bowl,” senior Sam Meshbesher said.

Each school that participates in a Knowledge Bowl meet brings anywhere from one to six teams to compete. In each room, three teams face off in an effort to score the most points for their school. “Rooms are categorized from the highest ranked teams to the lowest. Room A being the highest, followed by room B, C, and so on. The higher room you compete in, gets the higher score,” Mr. Reiff said.

The trick to creating a successful team is having different people with a variety of skills. Benilde-St. Margaret’s top team consists of seniors Jimmy Borin, Dan Letscher, Nolan Ahlm, and junior Ryan Kelly. “They blend together to make a good team – they each have separate strengths that round out their fields of expertise,” Mr. Reiff said.

With forty-five questions per round and each team trying to answer twenty questions correctly, the atmosphere gets competitive. “It’s a difficult achievement, and when it happens at one of the top rooms, there’s a lot of buzz when the teams get together after a round,” Mr. Reiff said.