Western Albemarle academic team building a national reputation

If you ask a member of the Western Albemarle High School Scholastic Bowl team a question, they will probably know the answer.

And it’s just that depth of knowledge that has the defending state champions ranked second in nation to start the season.

“The ranking is an incredible honor and a testament to the students’ hard work and their desire to be champions,” coach Eric Strzepek said. “They’ve done the work to get this ranking.”

The country’s top-ranked quiz bowl team is the Liberal Arts and Science Academy in Austin, Texas. Newsweek recently cited the Academy as the eighth best high school in America.

Last year Western’s team won all 20 of its matches, but being on the team, Strzepek said, is about more than just competition.

“Quiz bowl competitions teach students other lifelong skills that contribute to their personal and professional growth,” said Strzepek, who teaches history at Henley Middle School. “Students learn the importance of research, of working in teams, of performing well under pressure and of course, hard work.”

Eric Xu, a senior who last year earned the highest single game National Quiz Tournament score, said he participates because he enjoys the company of his teammates.

“They’re motivated, intellectually curious and very proactive people,” Xu said.

Senior Kelly Missett agreed.

“It’s a diverse group of kids. We have people from the football team, from executive council, it’s just fun,” Missett said. “We’re competitive, but it’s not a negative atmosphere.”

And both feel like the team is helping them prepare for their futures.

Xu, who is considering a gap year after high school to pursue a Scholastic Bowl opportunity in Asia, said he’s been exposed to information from all subject matters and has met many people with similar interests.

Missett, who is interested in studying human rights and psychology at Columbia University next year, said Scholastic Bowl has expanded her horizons.

“I might learn about a book that sounds interesting through a question we’re asked, and I learn about other cultures, so it’s making me more educated about the world, which will help me relate to other people,” Missett said.

Other team members include: Patrick Andrews, Sam Lesemann, Tim Dotson, Caroline Koester, Angela Li, Sophie Salamon, Daniel Du, James Boudoris, Jackson Collins and Muhannah Hossain

One other Virginia school, the Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School for Government and International Studies, was ranked in the top 10. Albemarle High School ranked 46th in the country.

Western’s season kicks off at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 29 at Fluvanna County High School.