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SCCC Quiz Scholars chase adrenaline, collect wins

Joe Denoyer - February 14, 2022 8:00 am

In its first year, team will compete in national tournament

An active participant in “nearly everything” at her small school district of Sublette, Elizabeth Horinek felt something was missing from her college experience at Seward County Community College.

“Adrenaline,” she said. “The way you feel when you go into competition in sports, and you see the other team — I felt there wasn’t much to do o campus if you aren’t an athlete.” Horinek remembered the rush of excitement she’d experienced in Scholars Bowl competitions through junior high and high school. Could SCCC launch a quiz team?

Less than year later, that question has been answered. The SCCC Quiz Scholars are not only a team, they’ve been ranked in the top 15 percent of the nation by the presiding facilitator of collegiate quiz bowl, the National Academic Quiz Tournaments, Inc.

SCCC Quiz Scholars gather at 5 p.m. each Tuesday and Thursday in the college library to run questions and jockey for top trivia status. Liberal residents Josh Swanson, Melvin Le, and Dennis Le, Jaxon Rios of Satanta, and Nicole Piper of Hugoton comprise the team, along with Horinek and first-semester competitor Macy Wertz of Balko, Okla. SCCC Executive Director of Grant Funding Charity Horinek serves as club sponsor. A former Quiz Bowl competitor herself, Horinek cheered her own children on as they competed through junior high and high school. She relishes the opportunity to keep her daughter company a bit longer at the college level, and get to know other students as well.

“The kids are so smart, and they seem to get smarter with every tournament,” she said. “I can’t believe we made it to national rankings in our first year.”

With a vast array of questions spanning history, art, music, math, and more, the competitions draw on each team member’s area of expertise.

“Elizabeth and I are supposed to be the music experts,” said Rios, “but we do art and other subjects, too.”

“Dennis has historical figures,” added Elizabeth Horinek, “but all of us are just learning about everything.”

As a question-reader and unofficial coach, said Charity Horinek, it’s hard to stay silent at times.

“The most frustrating questions are about the 1970s and ‘80s,” she said. “There’s definitely a generational knowledge base that I can access, while they know everything about video games and pop culture from the last 20 years.”

Dennis Le said his lifelong love of YouTube videos and WWF wrestling are his most reliable sources of knowledge, while Melvin Le gave credit to PBS children’s television shows. Josh Swanson leans hard into extensive reading throughout his home education. Elizabeth Horinek’s secret trove of 1980s music trivia was a gift of her mother, she joked. But make no mistake: the competitors tend to be top students, members of academic honor societies, and already collecting college degrees. Melvin Le has completed one associate degree and is at work on a second, while Dennis Le, a concurrent student at Liberal High School, has already amassed nearly 30 college credit hours.

The team’s regular study method is simply to drill with sample questions provided by NAQT.

These range from poetry excerpts to TV trivia, with international geography, nuclear theory, and the U.S. Supreme Court showing up as well. The most-frequently-covered topics include the works of William Shakespeare and World War II, and the long, winding questions contain layers of clues. Early answers earn more points, but penalties are issued if a team interrupts and then fails to produce the right answer.

In regular play, teams begin with a toss-up question, with the winner given the opportunity to answer three folllow-up questions. On occasion, the team may confer for a final answer, which is delivered by team captain Elizabeth Horinek.

The team groaned as they recalled tense moments of dispute.

“Like the time I knew it was Mao Tse-Deng, and you guys didn’t believe me,” Dennis Le put in.

“— or the time Elizabeth just blurted out the word ‘clock,’” said Melvin Le.

‘—but it was right,” Elizabeth Horinek pointed out.

The 80-question match-ups provide plenty of time for rapid-fire camaraderie to develop, the coach said. Tournaments generally include four to 16 teams competing in Round Robin fashion, which results in a 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. day of quizzing.

The SCCC students have become friends and made new friends from other college campuses, Charity Horinek said, as well as a few rivals.

“There are some teams that are just one person,” Melvin Le said. “One person!”

Because Seward is the most remote of the collegiate teams competing regularly, students and sponsor are thankful for the option of online competition. With the help of SCCC’s IT technicians, the Horinek mother-daughter duo have shouldered the task of setup and operation of remote competition equipment, along with arranging for timekeepers and moderators.

Charity Horinek said the team loves seeing supportive faces in the audience, and hopes SCCC community members will show up for the team’s upcoming competitions. The Shawnee Mission-based NAQT is a stickler for accountability and requires strict protocols in match facilitation and guest attendance for the online national tournament, which the team will access remotely from SCCC.

“We are allowed to have audience members while we play, but everyone in the room has to register ahead of time, and I’m coordinating that,” she said. “They can email me at [email protected] and I’ll get them the form.”

Feb. 19 — Garden City meet

Feb. 26 — online National Tournament

April 29-30 — Kansas State Championships at Salina


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