Gould students travel to Chicago for national quiz tournament

Councilman Adam Leff, center, and eight members of the Gould Academy World Quest Club in Bethel will travel to Chicago for the Small Schools National Championship Tournament this weekend. Left to right are Maxim Epstein, Baylen Williams, Leff, Jack Wellehan and Matthew Eggert. The other members are Payton Hedfield, Mark Brown, Kyra Shamkar and Quade Walls. Daryn Slover/Sun Diary

BETHEL — Gould Academy’s Academic World Quest Quiz team qualified for the national championships a year ago, earning members a trip to…the school library due to the pandemic.

With this year’s qualifying competition held during Gould’s traditional Four Point program when each class embarks on a journey of self-discovery, the club shifted focus and entered another national academic quiz program.

New tournament. Same result.

The Academic World Quest Quiz team travels to Chicago this weekend for the National Small Schools National Championship Tournament Finals. It is organized by the National Academic Quiz Tournaments, which organizes tournaments for high schools and colleges across the country.

Gould is the only school in Maine and one of only four in New England to participate in the open division for schools with fewer than 350 students for grades 10, 11 and 12.


“I have a general knowledge of things and I’m pretty good at quizzes,” said Jack Wellehan, a freshman junior at Gould. “I thought I could excel in this area.”

“I really like learning about culture, literature, languages, things like that,” added Matthew Eggert, a junior from Fairfax, Va. “Also, the first time I went to one of the meetings, I thought it was a good way to catch up on current events.”

Maxim Epstein remembers watching a high school quiz show on television while growing up in Massachusetts. It sowed the seed of his participation when he came to Gould. A member of the program for three years, Epstein competed two years ago on the school’s quiz team on Maine public television.

“I had a buddy who was at World Quest last year,” said Baylen Williams, a junior from Virginia. “This year I decided to join because I thought I would be good enough. I had a lot of fun participating in the competitions. Everyone is better at a particular subject and it’s not like you have to answer certain questions. Everyone has the opportunity to answer the question.

Counselor Adam Leff, a 15-year faculty member who teaches PA government and politics and is chair of the Global Languages ​​Department, provides the team with 100 questions each week. He calls them “knowledge shots” to help them prepare for competitions.


“It’s different information that pops up over and over in these academic quiz competitions,” Leff said.

He credits senior Peyton Hedfield, the team captain, with organizing study sessions every Sunday evening of an hour or more.

“We’re working on sample questions as well as the weekly New York Times quiz, which is just the news for the past week,” Epstein said. “We also learn the literature of the World Affairs Council, which we read on our own.”

Gould qualified for the Nationals in a virtual fall competition against other New England schools.

Each game features two schools of four students each competing to answer 20 questions on topics including history, geography, philosophy, religion, all sciences, math, popular culture, sports and even opera and classical music.


The team that answers the toss question correctly will have three bonus questions to answer for more points. Leff said a match can take 20 minutes or last up to 40-45 minutes. Teams get maybe a five-minute break until their next game. Tournaments last from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“It’s a pretty grueling academic day,” Leff said. “What I love about this is that it teaches students that success doesn’t always depend on getting the answer right. You are going to answer very badly. Failure happens. You have to get it out of your mind and keep moving forward. It’s wonderful because you see people supporting each other. You rely on your teammates.

Wellehan said the team usually wins its games with ease or has a close game, but every now and then the team gets humiliated by another school.

“We don’t train every day,” Wellehan said. “We train in our spare time and once a week, but we’ve managed to compete with those who train as an everyday sport.”

“Some teams, it’s their sport,” added Williams. “That’s what they do every day for an activity. But we’re doing pretty well. It’s a club for us. We do it once a week. It’s pretty cool that we were able to do this and go against people who do it every day and train for a few hours every day.


Leff said a few schools even treat this as an academic class.

Eight students and Leff will fly to Chicago on Friday morning. Other team members are Mark Brown, Kyra Shamkar and Quade Walls. They will train Friday night before Saturday’s one-day competition where the 55 schools will be divided into five groups of 11 and will play a 10-game round robin. Teams that win at least six games will advance to a double-elimination playoff on Sunday.

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