South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

LHS Scholar Bowl claims state title

LHS Scholar Bowl team founded three years ago
The Lindbergh High School 2024 Scholar Bowl team clinched the state championship title in May. Photo courtesy of the LHS Scholar Bowl team.

For the first time in program history, Lindbergh High School’s Scholar Bowl team are state champions. The team – composed of Vidur Kothur, Alec West, Cindy Yao, Hung Nguyen and Captain Aiva Rudolph – competed May 4 in Columbia, coming out victorious after testing their knowledge on topics including literature, science, mathematics, fine arts and history. 

Scholar Bowl – also known as Quiz Bowl or Academic Bowl – is a worldwide, quiz-based competition somewhat similar to team “Jeopardy!.” Competitions are typically played between two teams of four players, though teams are permitted additional players as long as only four compete at a time and the others act as alternates. During competitions, a moderator will read a question while both teams attempt to answer it first by “buzzing” in. About 20 questions on average are read per round. 

Most commonly, Scholar Bowl is played in a toss-up/bonus format. The two common types of toss-up questions include buzzer-beaters – short questions with few clues – and the more common, longer pyramidal tossups. 

“You’ll start with more niche stuff, and then it gets broader and broader as you read into it,” Rudolph said. “They’re not short, like ‘Jeopardy!’ questions, they’re four or five sentences.”

Any individual player can attempt to answer toss-up questions, though they are not allowed to run it by their team before answering. If the answer is incorrect, no one on the team is able to reanswer, and the question goes to the opposing team. If a toss-up is successfully answered, the team who answered correctly is given an opportunity to answer a bonus question, usually consisting of three individual questions worth 10 points each, or a total of 30 points. In most cases, only the team who answers the toss-up correctly can answer the bonus questions, though some game formats allow the opposing team to answer the portions of the bonus questions that were answered incorrectly, if there are any. This gameplay element is known as a “bounceback” or “rebound.”

“We love those tournaments, because they are really, really good at bonuses,” coach Sandy Olive said. “If there are bouncebacks, they just clean up.”

Typically, answering a toss-up question correctly is worth 10 points, though extra points – ranging from 15 to 25 – may be awarded if the answer is delivered before the specific clue-providing keyword is read. This action is called “powering.” If a team buzzes in before the question is finished being read and gets the answer incorrect, however, they may lose five points in what is called “negging.” After the “neg” is awarded, the moderator will read the question to the opposing team. 

Only three short years ago LHS entered the world of Scholar Bowl following Olive’s more than positive experience on “Jeopardy!.”

“It was the most fun I’ve ever had,” Olive said. “I was looking for a way to get more involved in the school community, like an activity I could sponsor and I felt like the kids at school needed the opportunity to be competitively knowledgeable. So I just started Googling ‘Quiz Bowl Missouri’ – I didn’t realize it was a MSHSAA-sanctioned activity. There was this great community of coaches who were so willing to help me out – they were just spectacular.”

The team officially started in fall 2021, recruiting players by word of mouth and at the annual LHS activity fairs. Through the years, they competed well, especially in the Class Six division – arguably the most competitive of the MSHSAA divisions, though they were never able to make it all the way. After getting knocked out at districts and losing eight seniors last year, things did not necessarily look great for the new team.

“We made mistakes last year,” West said. “And our first year, we lost sectionals to Parkway West.”

Nevertheless, LHS exceeded everyone’s expectations this season, excelling in almost every tournament they competed in during the regular season. This continued at districts as they beat Webster Groves, Oakville, Jackson and Central (Cape Girardeau). Later that week, they competed in quarterfinals, securing the ultimate victory against their unofficial rival Parkway West.

“We won by 10 points,” Rudolph said. “It was nice. It was like revenge.”

Lindbergh’s success continued at State, beating Rolla and Central (St. Joseph). They faltered to Republic, though due to their record, they were still able to advance to the finals. Republic and Lindbergh faced off once again in the State final, this time with Lindbergh on top, securing the Class Six Division State championship.

“One of my favorite things about these kids is we have a really well-rounded team…whereas some other teams – they have one kid who’s just a total dominator, and then the other three are there for set decoration,” Olive said. “That’s nice for them, they win a lot of games, but I love that (LHS is), you know, a team. They’re a real team.”

The team is now onto one of the few national competitions held each year, Partnership for Academic Competition Excellence (PACE), to compete against approximately 75 teams from across the country. The competition was held in Washington D.C. June 8-9.

“Unfortunately, we came in 51st; we lost two games by just 10 points each (which is only one question), which would have placed us much higher,” Olive told The Call after the national competition.

Still, it’s hard to deny that LHS Scholar Bowl was more than successful this season, however, Olive’s main focus has never been solely on competition.

“I tell the kids, ‘You can be as casual or competitive as you want.’ We have kids who come to practice who aren’t interested in competing, it’s totally fine,” Olive said. “I try not to emphasize winning because, to me, it’s not about winning. I just want them to do their best. And to enjoy it. I mean, these kids genuinely love doing it. That’s what I want them to find out about this, that knowledge is joy. Anything else is gravy.”