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QUIZ BOWL: Heelan competes at nationals

By RENEE WEBB, Globe senior reporter
(Email Renee)

What environmental concern deals with fears of a Malthusian catastrophe?  

That is just one example of the questions Bishop Heelan High School students had to answer during the National Academic Quiz Bowl 2014 High School Championship held May 31-June 1 in Chicago.

Competing in the national quiz bowl were Garrett Rethman, Louis Noel, Christian Pratt, Danny Goebel, Alex Linden and Michael Feste. The team was led by Coach Nan Kiel, who was assisted by Jason Pratt., who is the activities director at the school.

“As far as we are aware, this was Heelan’s first nationally-qualifying team,” said Kiel, who has taught at Heelan since 2002 and coached quiz bowl for three years. The team qualified for the national competition in Sioux Falls last November.

The Heelan team competed in 10 rounds May 31 and ended with a 3-7 record, placing 251st out of 272 teams from across the country. They would have needed a 6-4 record to move on in the competition and compete the next day.

But the record doesn’t tell the whole story.

“About three of our rounds went down to the last question and one round went into overtime and came down to sudden death,” Kiel said. “I was very proud of them because we had never had this experience before and we were competing against some extremely elite charter schools, private academies.”

Heelan students discovered some of their quiz bowl opponents had actually been recruited to their schools to compete on the team.

The coach said competing for the first time at nationals was a learning experience. They will take that knowledge and move forward for future years.

Noel, who just graduated from Heelan, acknowledged that they went into the nationals “not expecting a whole lot but we were prepared to do well and win a few matches. We were surprised by a few of the times – some of the kids were just unbelievable. The caliber of teams was very good. We were happy with our few wins.”

Three of his good friends are on the team, so that was a great part of the trip, he said, adding being part of a team was what drew him to quiz bowl competitions in the first place.

Pratt, who just graduated from Heelan, called the experience lots of fun and he enjoyed meeting people from across the country.

Heelan competed against teams from California, Tennessee, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Florida and Alabama.

“Going in we expected it would be difficult, tough completion,” said Pratt. “We wanted to try our best and see where it took us.”

One of the best parts for him was having time with and competing for the last time with his teammates. Pratt mentioned that each person brings their own strengths to the team and his are history and literature.

He was drawn to quiz bowl participation “because it’s fun to compete in an academic way, using what you’ve learned through all of your years in school.” Going to the national competition brought all of that to the next level.

“It’s nice applying the knowledge you learn in school into a competition setting,” noted Noel. “It drove me to study harder in school and participate in more outside learning on my own. Then during competition I could see the hard work pay off.”

He even learned about some operas and plays, “which aren’t my cup of tea but I did it to try to get points for the team.” Science and math were his strong areas of focus.

Throughout the year, Kiel said about 24 students participated in quiz bowl.

Heelan was the only team from Iowa to compete in nationals, but Kiel noted the nationals was capped at 272 teams. Some may have qualified but didn’t register in time and in other cases, some schools may have opted not to go because of the expense.

“We are extremely grateful that Heelan’s administration, activities office and the Gold Club agreed to finance it,” said Kiel, who mentioned she has stepped down from coaching for next year.

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