Years of hard work by the Swanton High School quiz team has culminated in a trip to the Small School National Championship Tournament April 28-30.
The team is built around the squad’s backbone, seniors Austin Hill and Jarrett Macek, a duo that cracked the starting lineup as freshmen.
“I’ve never had two players quite like them, self-motivated learners with a seemingly boundless curiosity across a variety of subjects,’ said coach Josh Eppert. He said the duo started over much older students because their potential and interest was so apparent.
“We both came in with good starting points, but we do owe a lot to what we have learned in school over the past four years,” Hill said. “It’s a tradition at practice and matches to thank the teacher we learned the answers from. Paying attention to the news, music industry, and other parts of pop culture is important as well, and we both stay up-to-date on what we are able to.”
As juniors last year, the team gelled, winning three tournaments and competing at the regional tournament. That success has continued into this season.
“My typical starting lineup, which also includes seniors Natalie Walbolt and Hunter Eash, has really good chemistry as a group, but the other varsity players, Mikayla Rochelle, Everett Payton, Max Wegener-Crow, Cailey McArthur, and Crystal McEwan also really help to fill in the missing pieces of knowledge that Jarrett and Austin can’t cover,” Eppert said.
Hill said other team members come in clutch when needed the most.
“One question can win or lose a game if it’s extremely close,” he said. “Jarrett and I may be the backbone, but our other teammates are our legs, supporting us and allowing everyone to be ready to tackle the questions in the games.”
Swanton participated in two leagues this year: the Toledo Area Academic Quiz Bowl League (TAAQBL) and the Northern Buckeye Academic League (NBAL). Swanton was 8-3 in the NABL.
The team won the Fulton/Henry tournament and placed second at the Fulton County tournament. As a result of winning the Fulton/Henry tournament, Swanton qualified for regionals in the state of Ohio. If the team places there, it will go on to compete at state.
“Being able to recall information to answer questions is important, but what is even more important is communication and chemistry while playing,” said Hill. “Effective passing of info to form a consensus ensures confidence, and the more confidence we have, the better we feel and play.”
He said everyone on this year’s team gets along very well.
“That chemistry is what allows us to communicate, give support, and have an overall good feeling for what it is we strive for – success. That is what allowed us to win that tournament, and the tournaments before that, too,” Hill said. “That sense of power, that sense of confidence, that sense of support no matter what the outcome – it’s intoxicating when you’re in the moment.”
The team finished 5-2 in the Toledo Area league, competing against larger schools such as Southview, Whitmer, Springfield, and Clay.
“We joined the TAAQBL this year because it follows the same format as what’s used at the national tournament (NAQT), and playing in it helped us place third at a regional tournament in Hicksville, which then qualified us for nationals,” said Eppert.
The Small Schools National Championship Tournament will be held at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in the Chicago suburb of Rosemont, Ill.
“Being able to participate in this national competition is such an amazing experience,” said Macek, who added it wouldn’t have been possible without Coach Eppert. “We’ve earned the trip. I’m excited to be able to compete against top teams from across the country. Through our hard work the past four years, the quiz bowl team here at Swanton was able to transform from a par to below-par team to one that’s going to national competition.”
Hill called competing in a national competition a dream come true.
“Starting my freshman year I would have never guessed that our team would be going to Chicago for a national tournament, let alone become so successful as we have been the past few years,” said Hill. “It feels well-deserved, considering how much we have ramped up our involvement and met our goals.”
The school provided nearly a third of the funding needed for the trip to the national tournament. The team has held some fundraisers and will continue with fundraisers to raise the necessary amount.
“We’ve reached out to local businesses as well. So far, people in the community have been very generous,” Eppert said.
With their sucess over the years, team members have had a number of memorable moments. Macek’s came at the end of his sophomore year, when the team placed second at the year-end tournament.
“During the season leading up to this, the team wasn’t performing well,” he said. “Following the departure of senior players that were present my freshman year, the team did not have a direction. It was almost like a vacuum. But throughout the season, through losing nearly every match we had played, Austin and I became more and more comfortable with the groove of quiz bowl, culminating in this second place victory.”
Hill said qualifying for the national tournament has been his most memorable moment.
“Talk about the stress! At one point, I thought I lost our chances when I failed to answer a question correctly during an important game,” said Hill. “My team supported me and raised me back up, though, and we successfully came back and got the position we needed to qualify for our nationals bid.
“I’m hoping for another memorable moment come end of April in Chicago.”
Reach Drew Stambaugh at 419-335-2010
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