The Uni Scholastic Bowl team has enjoyed a few of years of success but with the departure of three powerhouse seniors last year and three the year prior, it begs the question “Is Uni’s quizbowl success a mere flash in the pan?” Fortunately for Uni quizbowl fans, the team’s drive and aptitude appear undiminished and hopefully they can expect good things to come.
The Scholastic Bowl team has only recently made the climb to the top. The club started in 2012 and made quick strides, improving noticeably every year according to Dylan Bowman, the leader of quizbowl last year. In 2017, Uni earned runner-up at one of the state finals and was bumped up to a 2A school under IHSA. Prior to that, they were regarded as just a good regional threat. Under the leadership of Reed Phillips (class of 2018) in his senior year, Uni began making a name for itself and showing up on the national radar. Uni took home two state titles, setting the stage for what was to come.
Bowman says the following year in 2019, the Uni Scholastic Bowl team, headed by Tim Cho (class of 2019), exceeded everyone’s expectations. The team not only achieved two state titles again but also brought home the runner-up trophy at nationals.
The team was very optimistic last year. Despite the loss of three seniors, the squad was looking even stronger than they had the previous year when they came in second nationally. According to Bowman, Uni was under immense pressure to perform to expectations and they met them, crushing the playing field and ranking first in the nation for much of the regular season. They were gearing up for a championship run with the hopes of taking home the first place trophy this time. They took home first place from the two state titles held. That all changed, however, when coronavirus landed in the United States.
The pandemic wiped out any hopes of a national tournament and put an abrupt stop to the season. This was a cruel end to Uni’s best season yet but Bowman says he is happy with the team’s performance.
This year looks very different for the team. Uni continues to compete even if it has to be from home. Under the new leadership of senior Jonathan Lau and junior Lawrence Zhao, Scholastic Bowl migrated online, hosting practices and competing against other schools on the messaging platform, Discord. Despite the switch, the team is “the largest it has ever been” according to Zhao.
However, with this increased team size and an online relegation, the team has faced a few challenges. “People don’t think” when they send messages online, Zhao says. Due to new Uni policies on Uni affiliated spaces, the club Discord server is required to follow some strict guidelines but has had some difficulty monitoring online behavior. Zhao has addressed the club a few times this year regarding appropriate conduct when representing Uni at online competitions. The club leaders want to maintain a safe and welcoming space for Uni quizbowlers.
Lau also says that the team has had some limitations creating a sense of camaraderie among the players. Some of the players have never met in person. The discord server serves as a space for players to interact but it can only do so much.
Despite problems, Uni continues to do well as a team. They have finished top three in every tournament they have entered so far. With the online tournaments, Uni has the opportunity to compete against many great teams from across the country and has held their own. With the loss of three seniors on the A team (best team) last year, it is uncertain if Uni can uphold their national spot, but so far they have done well.
Bowman says that the team has improved but so has the field of competition leading to their lower national spot. “They would blow the 2019 team out of the water,” Bowman said about the teams leading the nation right now.
Zhao believes that even though they may no longer hold the number one spot, the Uni team remains in the top ten or top twenty schools in the nation. He is hopeful for what the future holds. He believes that Uni will remain a nationally contending team for years to come but he says there is a difference between being in the top ten schools versus top fifty.
Bowman is even more optimistic, pointing to Uni’s yearly improvement as proof that they will continue to climb. He believes that facing rivalry from the Chicago area (in arguably the most competitive quizbowl state) and being in proximity to the U of I are reasons why the Uni team has gotten this good. He believes these factors will continue to propel the team upwards.
The current team is young. Lau is the only senior and there are only two juniors currently on the team so the team has reason to believe that they will maintain their success. Zhao says there are many promising underclassmen but the team needs to put in more effort in their studying. With a little work, hopefully the team will bring home their first national title in the next few years.
If you are interested in joining scholastic bowl, email Lawrence Zhao at email@example.com.