Rebecca Dorosz will never forget the reaction of a junior varsity Pettisville Local Schools Quiz Team member following matches in a tournament. “That was the best day of my life,” the student exclaimed.
It’s that enthusiasm and devotion among the school district’s 31 quiz team members that qualified high school members for this weekend’s Ohio Academic Competition (OAC) Regional Tournament. It’s the final competition of a busy year and, due to COVID-19, the only in-person tournament this school year.
In preparation, the team members have met before and after school and during lunch periods to cram and strategize for a contest that relies on a deep knowledge of subjects and the ability to perform under pressure.
“We never stopped practicing” all year, despite the pandemic, Coach Rebecca Dorosz said. “They’re very dedicated.”
A member of the Pettisville quiz team as a senior during the 2001-02 season, Dorosz said this year’s junior varsity and varsity teams are particularly strong and dedicated. “They’re invigorated by competition,” she said. “The competition is fun. It’s fun to know something, it’s fun to know you’re contributing to a team.”
Over the past weekend the team scored well in the virtually-held Small School National Academic Quiz Tournament (NAQT). After nine rounds, varsity team members Levi Myers, Heath Waidelich, Elise Hoylman, Renee Hoylman, and Sam Myers finished with a 6-3 record, qualifying them for the bracketed playoffs. There they tied for 11th place overall, and tied for third place in the Very Small Schools division, for which they’ll be awarded.
That’s the highest a Pettisville quiz team has ever reached nationally. Waidelich, a team leader, was named the tournament’s all-star for finishing eighth overall as an individual scorer, racking up more than 70 points per game.
It was the fourth consecutive year the team qualified for the national tournament, but Dorosz isn’t surprised. “They learn to think under pressure, which is really hard to train in but it’s valuable in almost any profession. It’s exciting to learn how to do that,” she said.
Now in her ninth year as coach, Dorosz brings the excitement she felt during her team experience. “I enjoy academic quiz. I enjoy challenging students. I’m competitive,” she said.
Comprised of junior varsity and varsity members, the quiz team found itself meeting for virtual practices this year during the pandemic. That change, however, didn’t stop its drive to participate and win.
Practices were held regularly, even over the summer months, even as competitions were relegated to online platforms. A typical practice session went beyond merely answering a set of questions in different formats. The quiz team members were encouraged to specialize individually in areas such as literature, math, science, history, sports, fine arts, and pop culture. They studied books, watched YouTube videos, and kept notebooks filled with facts – anything to give them an edge in competitions.
The extra effort paid off during the NAQT, where the toss-up questions on a subject began as more obscure and difficult, then gradually became easier until the question eventually was or was not answered. An incorrect answer cost a team five points. Correct answers fired off quickly – called “powering” – were worth 15 points; otherwise, 10 points were awarded. A correct answer earned a team three additional bonus questions, also worth 10 points apiece.
“Toss-ups don’t go dead when you have two strong teams,” Dorosz noted.
The Pettisville Quiz Team has a long season – from September to May – and participates in the Northern Buckeye Academic League (NBAL), the Toledo Area League (TAL), and with other Fulton County school districts. The team won the Fulton County and NBAL tournaments and the Northwest Ohio Educational Service Center November Invitational, placed fourth in JV and as varsity runner-up in the TAL tournament, and qualified for the upcoming OAC state tournament.
The team also competed online in the Jesse Brown Small School Showcase Tournament located in Kentucky, and joins random nationwide tournaments. Team members have previously traveled to Chicago for in-person nationals.
“When we go to nationals I’m always really inspired, because it’s just filled with really great competitors who are very talented and respectful of one another and admire each other’s knowledge. It’s inspiring to be around that,” Dorosz said.
The team’s varsity starters, seniors Heath Waidelich and Levi Myers, have been outstanding leaders and will be missed next school year, she said.
“They’re both very bright kids, both are very, very hard-working,” she said. “And what makes me proud is, they’re just both very honest and fair competitors.”
Waidelich has competed for the team since junior high school, and said leaving is bittersweet. “It’s fun to have an ending and to know that you’ve reached the finish line, but at the same time I’m going to miss the team, I’m going to miss the competition,” he said
After graduation he plans to attend Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Mich., majoring in philosophy and classics. He said if the university has a quiz team he’ll join it.
“It’s a lot of random knowledge, and it’s basically a bunch of people having fun with whatever they can know. It’s a lot of relaxed fun, and it’s not super-pressured,” he said of Pettisville’s team.
Waidelich added that the reading necessary to specialize in a subject “can help you learn more about everything in the world. It doesn’t really matter what subject because there’s always a book on it. I think it’s helped me in many areas.”
In life terms, the quiz team has taught him how to work for a team and with others. “In the work force you have bbto make sure you’re doing your job well, and hope that the person next to you is doing their job well, so that way the whole company can push out a better project,” he said.
As for the vast area of knowledge he’s gained from the quiz team, Waidelich said, “I wouldn’t have known a lot of this stuff and I feel like I’d be missing out on a lot of stuff.”
The devotion Pettisville Quiz Team members have may be due to their shared base of knowledge, Dorosz said. “It’s appealing when you feel knowledgeable, when you know what someone is talking about,” she said. “I’m often reminded when coaching quiz how hungry kids are to learn. Once you put that information in front of them and it’s unique and interesting knowledge, they soak it up. They learn about the world around them.”
Full season results for the team are available on the left side of www.pettisvilleschools.org/page/nerd-herd.
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.