When Greenbush-Middle River Knowledge Bowl students were asked what they enjoy most about participating in this activity, GMR senior Denton Burkel was the first to answer, wanting to provide some honesty.
“I go for the Chinese food,” Burkel said, drawing some laughs from his fellow team members. “… Let’s be real, Chinese buffet, Vietnamese chicken, it’s the best.”
He added how opportunities like this, to eat outside of school on Wednesdays, as part of Knowledge Bowl meet days, was a small part of the reason he and his fellow team members joined.
Chances to eat out and travel for Knowledge Bowl meet days are not currently a possibility this season.
But, the team is still having a season— this year in a virtual and long distance format due to the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Following a Greenbush-Middle River Knowledge Bowl practice on December 8, some GMR Knowledge Bowl team members discussed the upcoming season, including their reactions to learning they would have a season, changes and difficulties related to the new format, and their hopes for this season. They also discussed their team knowledge dynamics and the reasons, beyond just food, they enjoy participating in Knowledge Bowl.
Knowledge Bowl is an event where school teams compete against one another in a test of wits across various categories of knowledge. It’s highlighted by rounds in which teams not only have to know the right answer, but buzz in with the right answer before other teams do.
Coached by GMR teacher Mara Gust, this year’s GMR team includes the following 16 students, with the seven seniors denoted by a star symbol: Lauren Stenberg, Hannah Bergsnev, Cassie Dahl, McKenna Bennett, Mariah Christian*, Denton Burkel*, Olivia Brazier*, Elizabeth Gust, Chance Christian, Ryan Hlucny*, Christian Wahl*, Honna Westlund, John Novacek*, Chester Duray*, Kinsley Hanson, and Julia Peterson.
Seeing other activities impacted by the pandemic, Knowledge Bowl members had various feelings and thoughts when learning they would have a season. Senior Olivia Brazier looked forward to it, but knows moving forward it won’t be quite as fulfilling as a normal season.
“I was ecstatic to hear that we were still going to have Knowledge Bowl… but I did feel that the memories we made last year, especially considering how well we did, would be unmatched if they were virtual,” Brazier said. “And we even made friends with other teams (at meets) that often placed surrounding us.”
Senior Ryan Hlucny also had some positive feelings with this announcement, but to begin with did feel some skepticism as to how it would be held virtually.
“Looking at the platforms we have available, like Discord and other meeting platforms like Google Meets, and also this BuzzIn.Live application that we have for buzzing in for questions, it actually makes it a pretty streamlined process,” Hlucny said. “So I was skeptical, but I was very happy at the prospect that we could have Knowledge Bowl because it’s really, really fun. I just hope that we can get to the same level of satisfaction that we had last year through the virtual (format).”
Thanks to this virtual format, students who are not able to attend practice in person have the ability to attend outside the school setting. For example, at that December 8 practice, three GMR students, Hlucny, senior Christian Wahl, and Honna Westlund, joined virtually.
Despite the season continuing to go on with these virtual adjustments, that doesn’t mean the team’s having smooth sailing adjusting to these virtual changes. Using multiple sources of audio, Brazier explained how they are running into some audio feedback issues.
Hlucny mentioned how communication will prove to be the most difficult part about this new format.
“We have to communicate over the Internet, and there’s always going to be a certain delay. There’s always going to be certain discrepancies in what you hear and what the person who’s actually saying the question says,” Hlucny said. “And it’s always harder to tell what a person is saying or what they’re trying to mean through the Internet, if you can’t see them as well.”
The team is using Discord, a messaging application, for its own team communication. Early on, it’s practicing with this application from homes and in nearby rooms between teammates. As both Hlucny and Brazier explained, communication between teammates will also be more difficult in this new format.
“I’d say also picking up on the tones of your teammates and picking up on the tone of the question reader (will be difficult),” Brazier said. “… It’s hard to figure out who is the most confident in their answer over online.”
Practicing every Tuesday and Thursday after school, the team began practicing a few weeks ago and will have its first meet on January 8. Coach Gust estimated that the team would have the same number of meets as usual, eight, and mentioned how a virtual state meet is in the works.
This season will be different, no Chinese buffet visits or the chances to bond with other teams, but it’s something, and, during this year of so much uncertainty, this Knowledge Bowl team will take it.
“I’ve been telling the students that if you try to compare this to previous Knowledge Bowl, you might be disappointed because it’s really so very different,” Coach Gust said. “But it is an activity that we get to do this year when so many things have been cancelled. So try to look at it that way and just enjoy what we can do.”
To see the complete story, read the December 16 issue of The Tribune in print or online.