We caught up with Taryn League `91, the adult brain of Knowledge Bowl and she skillfully provided answers to all of our questions about Knowledge Bowl:
When and why did you get involved in Knowledge Bowl? Former librarian Connie Robinson had the team for years. When she retired in 2017 I asked to take over as moderator. It tapped into two things for me—academic trivia and a chance to work with students outside of the traditional classroom environment. Plus I really love the competition and the brain-flexing that happens!
Who can join?
Typically the Club Fair in September helps me find students who want to get involved. I look for students of any age with particular expertise and try to build my teams around that (i.e. a math-smart kid, a history-smart kid, a Latin speaker, etc.) I look for students who are willing to commit to weekly practices during Community Period and once-a-month meets, plus potentially going to regionals and state if they are on my main Varsity team. On most Wednesdays, I have 20-plus kids in my classroom practicing questions and hitting those buzzers. It's the highlight of each of my weeks. I am currently looking for literature, math, and history capable students who are freshmen or incoming freshmen. Next year will be very junior heavy so I need to find students in the class of '26 and class of '27. Come see me in Room 46!
What does a competition season look like?
Knowledge Bowl competition begins in October and we compete against 21 different schools with around 48 individual teams in both JV and Varsity divisions (about 200 students).
Each meet is three rounds and consists of both oral and written questions—50 questions each. The oral rounds use a buzzer system that determines who buzzed in first—there are 3 teams competing against each other in each round and this is happening simultaneously in up to 15 classrooms.
There are 5 league meets and we start in October and end in February. The league counts match wins in order to place the teams and uses accumulated points to determine tiebreakers. Each question answered correctly equals 1 point. The Inland Empire Knowledge Bowl League helps us get ready for Regionals which each Washington State Educational Service District oversees (in our case ESD 101) which happens in March. Regionals consist of 5 oral rounds and 1 written round. Points are accumulated over those 6 rounds and they determine who goes to State. Because Gonzaga Prep teams compete in the 4A classification, there is only one seed for the state tournament, which means we have to win in points over the other 4A schools in order to earn the state berth (mid-March). They also have an overall placing for all teams no matter what classification they are in. Last year we placed 2nd overall.
I stepped into the leadership role for the IEKB this year because the league lost its coordinator. Public schools have a hard time hosting the fees due to the complexities involved for a public school district. Gonzaga Prep gladly stepped in to help host the fees and keep the program going. I am particularly grateful to Joleen Cooney and Anne-Marie Misko Kennedy who have endlessly helped make Knowledge Bowl happen for 21 schools and their kids. I am also grateful for Lori Jacobsen (East Valley) and Maegan Gomes (Lewis & Clark) who have worked with me on rules and standards for the league and creating a positive competitive environment.
What's the difference between KB and History Bowl?
Knowledge Bowl is completely separate from History Bowl but I run both and we have kids overlap in each. KB is part of the IEKB and competes in teams that answer questions from ALL over the academic spectrum. Geology, geography, science, Latin, French, Spanish, History, political science, literature, music—you name it. A lot of people don't know it, but our teams compete against teams from Eastern Washington and Idaho. We are held to WIAA regulations and when it comes to Regionals and State, we compete in the 4A classification just like all of our sports teams. Both teams use a buzzer system but Knowledge Bowl has a team system and History Bowl has individual buzzers. History Bowl and Bee are different from Knowledge Bowl because the subjects are ONLY history, geography, and political science. The Bowl and Bees are run through a national organization (International Academic Competitions.) The bowl is a team of up to 4 students and in the Bee, students compete individually. Bowl and Bee participants can qualify for state and nationals, which are always held in Washington, D.C. The 2020 Bowl & Bee champions were headed for DC in April of that year when the pandemic hit. We had earned enough money to go and it was a tough pill to swallow when we couldn't travel. We just qualified for Nationals this last weekend and it would be wonderful to take the team, but it's a pretty quick turnaround to get the team to D.C. this April.
What would you tell the KB-curious?
We run much like a basketball program! We have 5 teams just like a major sports program. Not everyone makes Varsity but we have spots on teams for kids who want to play. Our kids commit to practicing just like an athletic sport and can letter if they compete at the Varsity level. It is intense and these kids have to balance knowledge with their ability to hit the button quicker than their opponents. They also have to figure out when to challenge a question. When they compete it's all student-driven. I can't coach them when they are in a round. They learn to swap players when they need to and they learn to work with each other to get questions right.
We lost by ONE POINT at State in 2019 and I am still replaying that moment in my head. I have faith that we will make it back and we will earn that State Championship title soon! I would also point out that this is a great community. Not only are the students supportive of each other but they are a genuinely smart and funny group of humans. And their parents are amazing! They send cookies, goody bags, water, and help cover costs for the extra things like pizza at a tournament or sweatshirts. I am so appreciative to all the people who have walked this journey with me for the past 6 years to make this program so successful!
Currently we have 3 teams in the top 6 for the league's Varsity and Junior Varsity divisions (out of over 24 teams each!) History Bowl and Bee claimed three championship spots last weekend. These kids really rock!