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FHS wins ‘Scholar’s Bowl’

Farragut High School’s Scholar’s Bowl team held up under the pressure of being filmed for television and forged ahead to beat West High School and claim first place in the 2009 East Tennessee Public Television Scholars Bowl recently.

Team co-captains Dennis Meng and Madelyn Crawford said although the team was nervous because of the TV camera crew, it wasn’t any different than any other, non-televised competition.

“I think any time you go into a competition you are never quite prepared for it. Everyone is nervous and you have to get used to the setting and the questions and the person asking the questions and the buzzer system. It usually takes a little time for everyone to get comfortable but I think the more rounds we played the easier it got for us,” Madelyn said.

Dennis added, “One of the things I remembered getting used to was a slight delay in buzzing. Because you would buzz in and then you would wait a whole second before it lights up. In normal competitions you hear the buzzer as soon as you press it. So I would buzz in and then I would hear the buzzer.”

FHS science teachers Kristin Baksa and Amanda Wehner, the team’s coaches, were excited about the win.

“This is the first time we have won,” Baksa said.

“We always competed and then we stopped for a while, but we started back up three years ago but we never won, so this is a big deal,” she added.

Scholar’s Bowl competitions cover all aspects of academia.

“It covers English, literature, history, some science and math, geography … it is all subjects,” Baksa said.

“And these kids are dedicated. They come in and practice every Tuesday morning — they are here before I am — and every Thursday afternoon,” she added.

Students are chosen for the team through a testing process, but because the subject matter is so broad, FHS gave two tests this year.

Dennis said, “Back in May we did a 100-question test and it was basically the highest scores were chosen.”

The team then discovered it was not as well balanced in all subjects as it had hoped.

“Since we had some balancing issues we gave a different test in August and we took the cumulative scores. So the top 16 joined [Madelyn and me] on the team. It was basically whoever scored the most points out of 220 questions,” Dennis added.

Madelyn and Dennis were chosen for the team at the end of their sophomore year and because they have the most experience, are co-captains and switch off being team captain for different competitions.

Not only does the team have to be knowledgeable on the subject matter, they also must practice buzzing in.

“There is an art to buzzing in. You have to buzz in early enough, but not too early,” Baksa said.

“Yeah, I found out the hard way what happens when you buzz in a little too early,” Dennis joked.

The competition is a single-elimination contest and FHS played three times.

“They beat Oak Ridge in the semi-finals to move on to the finals,” Baksa said.

Although there were more than 50 teams competing, Baksa said beating Oak Ridge was an especially sweet victory.

“There is a rivalry between us,” Dennis said.

“Especially since we know everyone on the team,” Madelyn added.

PBS already has aired all episodes of the competition but will re-air them this summer. Program dates and times can be found on the public television Web site at


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