Eagle scholars win competition

BRISTOL — A team of eight quick-thinking Mount Abraham Union High School students have won the inaugural small-school state championship at the Vermont-NEA Scholars’ Bowl.
The group of scholars bested 23 other teams to win the inaugural event on Jan. 31 at Montpelier High School. The Vermont Scholars’ Bowl has been around since 1984, but this was the first year that the event divided schools into two categories, based on size.
“It was nice to have a chance to win something,” said Mount Abe co-coach Deb Van Schaack, adding that the victory was sweetened by defeating archrival Champlain Valley Union on the way to the championship.
At the competition, teams played five games before being segregated into the large- and small-school categories for the playoffs.
Each game, in which four players per team participate, consists of a 10-minute round of toss-up questions with bonus follow-ups, a one-minute lighting round for each team, and a final nine-minute round of toss-up questions. Contestants don’t pick categories of questions, which vary in topic from history to science, sports and pop culture.
“It could be anything from Greek mythology to NFL quarterbacks,” Van Schaack said.
After advancing to the playoff round, the Eagles defeated Mount St. Joseph Academy of Rutland in the semifinal, 360-115, before beating Montpelier, 305-265, on their home turf.
Van Schaack, who co-coaches the team with Justin Bouvier, said the Eagle squad represents a diverse cross-section of the student body. Students range from freshmen to seniors, and participate in many other extracurricular activities. Team members practice twice a week to sharpen their skills. The team has a dozen players, and Van Schaack brought both varsity and junior varsity teams to the competition.
For their victory, the Eagles got to take home a trophy that will be engraved. Van Schaack said the team decided that each member would take the trophy home for a day. She imparted to them one piece of advice.
“If they decide they’re going to eat cereal out if it, they need to clean it before they bring it back,” she said.
Meanwhile, another Addison County school also made a strong showing at the Jan. 31 competition. Middlebury Union High School won the JV tournament and went 4-1 in the varsity division, losing only to Essex, according to MUHS Scholars’ Bowl coach Perry Lessing. 
Both the Mount Abe and Middlebury teams will compete in the Scholars’ Bowl Finals at the University of Vermont on March 28. Going into that tournament, open to schools of all sizes, Middlebury will be seeded third (behind Essex and Burlington) and Mount Abe will be seeded 11th.

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