Knowledge Bowl team wins a second place


March 24, 2021

The award-winning La Conner High Knowledge Bowl program is used to having all the answers.

And, true to form, not even 2020’a universal campus lockdowns imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic has kept team members from participating at a high level.

By using technology and collaborating with other knowledge bowlers across Washington state, the team has found a way to practice and compete despite the virus crisis, which forced schools to start the academic year with remote learning formats.

La Conner’s Chronically Iliad entry, comprised of seniors MacQuaid Hiller and Max Drews, juniors Juna Swanson and Thomas Wilme and freshmen Hallie Walls, Zaira Najera and Sammy Williams placed second last week in a combined 1B-2B-1A statewide competition conducted via the Zoom teleconferencing platform.

“This was a ‘just for fun’ competition that carried no official standings or anything like that,” La Conner High Knowledge Bowl coach Beth Clothier told the Weekly News afterward. “But it was as close to a State competition as the kids were going to get and they were excited to play some new teams and do well against them.”

Not about to rest on their laurels – having secured a de facto second place state finish – Clothier, co-coach Christi Malcomson and Knowledge Bowl participants resumed practice on Friday with a hybrid session in the high school library. Some team members attended in-person while masked and socially distanced. Others took part on-line.

Malcolmson reeled off 50 practice questions, covering a broad range of subjects, from English literature and science to math and social studies.

While the questions were challenging, the practice session had its lighter moments. After 12 months of COVID-19, students and coaches enjoyed being able to meet mask-to-mask if not face-to-face.

As she read a lengthy passage from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Malcomson was interrupted mid-voice inflection when a student buzzed in early to identify which character was being quoted.

“I’m kind of bummed I didn’t get to finish that,” Malcomson quipped.

The fun has been infectious despite COVID-related limitations.

“If anything,” said Hiller, “we’ve actually grown the program.”

That is saying a lot when you consider La Conner has a well-established Knowledge Bowl tradition, having captured a state championship in 2016 and placed second two years ago.

In addition to the Chronically Iliad group, the 2020-21 La Conner Knowledge Bowl roster features Emily Southard, Kenai Zimmerman. Hadley Shears, Madoc Hiller and Eleanor Drews.

This year La Conner hopes to compete once or twice more at the regional level into April, Clothier said.

The Knowledge Bowl students say their secret to success is doing a lot of independent reading, whether on-line or through traditional media and keeping abreast of current events and issues.

Being able to meet in-person since pandemic restrictions have been eased has further added to the program’s appeal.

“The students have been able to come in and make it a fun place to be,” Clothier said.

It is even more than that.

“When I come in, I feel such happiness,” Najera explained. “It makes me feel good. I can forget all the bad (coronavirus) stuff. This is like a family.”


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