Bill Nicolls has been a Toledo high school coach for 20 years.
But his undefeated Start High School team doesn't play on the hardwood, the gridiron, or the diamond - instead, players usually square off against other schools in a library or cafeteria.
"Students on the Quiz Bowl team make a conscious decision to give up things like soccer or the school play," Mr. Nicolls said. "They make a real commitment."
The six-student team, which competes each year in the Toledo-Area Quiz Bowl League, went undefeated this year, beating St. John's Jesuit and St. Ursula Academy; suburban schools like Sylvania Northview and Southview, and the prestigious Maumee Valley Country Day School. All told, the Start team beat 14 opponents.
James Sieja, the team's top scorer, can't help but grin when asked about the season's triumphs. "I just love beating teams like St. John's and Maumee Valley because they hate being beaten by some public school," he said. "Sure, we can blow them away in football, but we beat a school with serious academic focus."
Usually the team breezes through a match, defeating teams by more than 200 points. Each question is generally worth 20 points; in a second round, a team loses 10 points for a wrong answer.
The closest match this year was an 80-point victory over Maumee Valley.
Last night, the team dominated the TPS High School Tournament, which included Bowsher, Libbey, and Waite high schools.
Mr. Sieja, a senior, answered, without hesitation, questions like "In 1947, President Truman established the Truman Doctrine to help what two countries do what?" The answer: Help Greece and Turkey avoid communism.
He also knew that Bangladesh borders Burma and India on the Bay of Bengal and that King Arthur's horse was named Spumador.
Team member Albert Hong, who is also a senior, said a match can still be a gut-wrenching competition.
"It's extremely rewarding to be able to use our ability in the classroom to do things that pay off," Mr. Hong said. "A lot of us know the answer, but the key is being able to get to the buzzer the fastest."
The team also includes Sean Timmons, Kenneth Elliott, Cory Hoffman, and Mark DeNucci.
The Toledo Board of Education had planned to recognize the team at its regular meeting tonight, but postponed the ceremony until next month because of scheduling conflicts.
Last year, the team tied with St. John's for first place. Mr. Nicolls said he could not recall another TPS school winning the league championship.
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