Coal Ridge Knowledge Bowl heads to regionals

Coal Ridge Knowledge Bowl heads to regionals
This is the image for the news article titled Coal Ridge Knowledge Bowl heads to regionalsAhead of regionals this weekend, coach Josh Mortensen’s Knowledge Bowl team at Coal Ridge High School reflects on the first year of a program that has brought students together and fostered a newfound excitement for academic competition.

Knowledge Bowl is the name for several interdisciplinary academic quiz bowl-like competitions across the United States and the world. In Colorado, it typically involves teams of four to six students trying to answer questions in a written round and several oral rounds.

Mortensen says that one of his AP Language students, junior Caleb Thompson, mentioned one day that he'd love to get a team going. “Given that I once volunteered at a tournament at my previous school, I knew enough about it to be interested, so I offered to coach the team,” says Mortensen. “Caleb and I recruited a number of students, and the rest is history.”

Fun fact: Caleb's father won the state Knowledge Bowl tournaments for Delta High School in 1990, 1991 and 1992, which is part of the reason why he wanted to form a team at Coal Ridge.

“We have a lot of academic discussions at home and both my parents are college teachers, so I have a love for knowledge,” says Caleb. “Competing with my friends and applying my knowledge in a different way than what is normally expected was a really exciting opportunity. That's why I wanted to start the team.” Caleb also has a younger brother, Isaac, as a teammate who is a freshman this year.

As a first-year team going up against schools that have been running the Knowledge Bowl for the last decade, Mortensen says he tried to be realistic about his expectations. To his surprise in the first tournament, the varsity team fought their way to competing in the highest-level rooms. They placed third overall in their second tournament. Mortensen says he can remember the coach for Grand Junction High School saying something to the effect of, "Where the heck did you guys come from?"

Mortensen says that teamwork, in its most intimate form, is the greatest skill that Knowledge Bowl participants gain. “The competition level is so high that teams must function like smoothly operating machines,” says Mortensen. “Each student has to know their peers' strengths, weaknesses, timing, personalities, and so on. Even though tournaments are intense and stressful, each team shows and maintains an impressive amount of respect for their fellow competitors.”

According to Caleb, what makes a good team is when you have different people that are specialists in different subject areas. “I would say my specialty is geography and history,” says Caleb. “I'm very passionate about political science, culture and different points of view in general. So, I tend to excel when given those kinds of questions.”

For Henry Amato and Michael Santillan, both freshmen, strong suits include literature and current events, respectively. Both Amato and Santillan say that participating in Brain Bowl in middle school got them interested in Knowledge Bowl at Coal Ridge. That, learning new things and spending time with friends is why they enjoy being on the team.

“The best part of Knowledge Bowl for me is being in an environment where my love for knowledge is accepted as a good thing,” says Caleb. “A lot of times in school, you feel social pressure for being a smart person and being interested in knowledge. I feel comfortable in this setting to not hold back and say what I know without shame.”

“While much credit goes to Caleb for kickstarting the idea, I will say that Knowledge Bowl provides a community for a particular type of student,” says Mortensen. “This is the only school club for some of our members, and I'm delighted to know they have a place to call home at Coal Ridge. We’re striving every day to build a Knowledge Bowl culture here at Coal Ridge.”
Website by SchoolMessenger Presence. © 2023 Intrado Corporation. All rights reserved.