STANWOOD — The home team came in confident after a strong season of Hi-Q, an academic competition that pits high school students against each other in a test of knowledge.
But the Stanwood students couldn’t keep their lead during the state championship. The team from Monroe High School passed Stanwood and fellow competitor Lake Stevens as they answered questions about history, science, math, art and literature.
By taking first place during the regular season, Stanwood won the right to host the championship. Several hundred students gathered in the high school performing arts center to cheer them on.
All three teams started strong. The first topics were current events and American history. Students answered with no hesitation and quickly racked up points.
The students knew that the United Nations issued a formal declaration about famine in Somalia, that the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was attacked in Malaysia, and that retired Gen. Michael Flynn resigned as national security adviser. They answered promptly about the 1903 Elkins Act, Black Tuesday in 1929 and kamikaze pilots during World War II.
Then the subject switched to biology and competitors stumbled over questions about gram-negative prokaryotic cells, photosynthetic protists and forams. The sports category didn’t go any better. None of the teams knew that Patty Berg holds the record for most major wins by a woman golfer.
Lake Stevens pulled ahead during the literature category, but Monroe soon passed them with an extra point in math. They kept their lead through questions about Shakespeare’s plays and geographic locations around the globe. At the end of the first half, Monroe had 22 points while Lake Stevens and Stanwood trailed with 14 and 13, respectively.
The second half kicked off with chemistry, where the teams struggled. They quickly answered questions about art history.
By the end of the match, teams were throwing out guesses. When asked to “name the wave property characterized by a system of waves spreading out as a result of passing through a narrow opening or across an edge,” Monroe guessed “magic.” The correct answer was diffraction.
Undeterred when guesses didn’t land, Monroe continued to build its lead. The students clinched their victory by being the first to buzz in for questions about math and Shakespeare.
Monroe won with 44 points. Lake Stevens had 27 and Stanwood had 21.
Stanwood Hi-Q coach Carrie James noted that preparing for competition requires extensive studying. Teams are given 13 subjects with multiple sources, including textbooks, short stories and magazines. Each team decides how to break up the workload.
The Monroe team came together to study some topics.
“We have group get-togethers to watch Shakespeare,” junior Valentina Alvarez said. “They’re not rowdy, but they’re fun.”
Monroe’s Hi-Q team made it to the championships the past four years but hadn’t won. Last year was especially disheartening, said the members, all of whom are returning competitors. They took first place in last year’s regular season, then got trounced. A strong comeback this year is what the program needs, they said. They were “elated” to go home with the trophy and hope more students will join Hi-Q.
“As much as people think it’s a nerd club — even we think that — it’s really fun,” senior Jack Langston said. “It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.”
Lake Stevens students prepared by studying over the summer and school year, but admitted there was some last-minute cramming. It’s not as hard as it seems because they know what to study, senior Zoey Gonzalez said.
“Anyone can do it,” she said.
It was Stanwood junior Collin Chung’s first year of Hi-Q. Brooke VanSant, a senior, was the only returning member for the team. She plans to study business at Santa Clara University next year. Chung already has decided to continue in Hi-Q.
During Friday’s championship, students in the crowd laughed at questions that were far removed from what most people would know. “Of course it’s Cordelia,” one student whispered to his friend after hearing the answer to a Shakespeare questions that stumped competitors. When the announcer read long, unfamiliar science terms, another teen nudged his neighbor and jokingly murmured, “Well, obviously.”
And when their team got an answer right, they cheered. Loudly.
“It’s kind of deflating to get beaten by teams we beat in the past,” Chung said. “But it’s nice to see the school come together for something academic like this.”
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.