|“April Madness”: Davidson College Well-Represented at National Academic Competitions
April 08, 2009
Contact: John Syme
Davidson College made smart showings in two competitions of education and intelligence this week, the National Academic Quiz Tournaments (NAQT) in Dallas, Tex., on Friday and Saturday, April 4 and 5, and the quiz show Jeopardy! on Monday and Tuesday, April 6 and 7.
Both Davidson teams at the Quiz Bowl tournament finished in the top half of the 31-team, Division II field. Their preparations for the trip were reported .
“This is great for our first year of competition in the NAQT league, which features much harder questions and stiffer competition than our teams have faced in the past,” said James Gibert ’79, the college’s director of planned giving and Quiz Bowl team coach.
Eric “Chops” LaForest ’06 won Monday night’s round of Jeopardy!, though he lost by one dollar in Tuesday’s follow-up match. But he did well and had fun. Ask any of the 40 people gathered in his Boston apartment to watch, or any of the campus fans who gathered at Davidson’s C. Shaw Smith 900 Room in the Alvarez College Union.
“I was in my element,” LaForest said by phone the morning after his win aired on NBC.
La Forest cited his intramural College Bowl experience at Davidson as good preparation for the quiz show. (As he noted on Jeopardy!, he got his nickname “Chops” from the “monstrous mutton chops” he sported his first year of Davidson.) An addiction to crossword puzzles and buzzer reflexes honed on video games also helped him on the Jeopardy! stage, said LaForest, a U.S. history teacher at Chapel Hill–Chauncy Hall School in Waltham, Mass.
He tried out for Jeopardy! almost as a lark last May, after his then-finacée’s godfather, in a spirit of expansive celebration at LaForest’s wedding rehearsal dinner several years ago, offered to pay his way. He and his wife flew to Los Angeles for taping last December, courtesy of the godfather’s frequent flier account number.
In the “It’s a Small World” category, LaForest’s loss was to a contestant originally from Morganton, N.C., only a short distance from Davidson. They both got the final jeopardy answer and question right, and LaForest was sure enough of himself to bet all he had. But his opponent had the capital to bet for a total of a dollar more. The answer? “The last names of these two sports venues, both in Queens, are anagrams of each other.” The question: “Shea and Ashe.”
At the Quiz Bowl tournament in Dallas, Davidson Team A (seniors Francisco Fiallo, Kendra Chapman, Scott Saldana and Zeke Webster) finished ninth in the final bracketed standings. With the exception of Carleton College (last year's Div. II National Champion, whom Team A beat in the preliminary round of play), all of the schools finishing higher were large research universities. Ranked by won-loss records for the whole tournament, Team A finished fifth with a 10-3 record.
Team B (junior Rob Cameron, sophomores Zach Bennett and Alex Kowaleski and first-year student Joseph Sills) finished 14th in the final weighted standings with an overall record of 6-7. One loss was to Davidson A, in the second playoff round.
“The teams that we played were very good. They were very smart competitors,” said Bennett. “The questions were very tough, too. In the rounds that we lost, I feel like we were beaten by the questions as much as by our competitors.
“Going to the national competition made me realize that the members of our team are well-rounded people. We love Quiz Bowl and devote a lot of energy to it, but we have lives, too. We definitely did practice a lot, but we didn’t really ‘study’ for Quiz Bowl per se. In terms of the content we know, I think it’s coming from classes at Davidson and other things we’ve done. In class right now, I’m reading Coriolanus, and he says, ‘There is a world elsewhere,’” said Bennett.
“The B team has spent most of the time since play ended plotting strategy and tactics for next year, when they will be the nucleus of Davidson's first-ever National Academic Quiz Tournaments Division I contender,” said Gibert. “Both teams played with the kind of warrior-poet spirit and consummate sportsmanship we're used to here at Davidson. They did us all proud.”
Senior David Palko of Team A missed the tournament because of academic commitments, and sophomore Spencer Cowan was ill and couldn't make it.
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,700 students located 20 minutes north of Charlotte in Davidson, N.C. Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently regarded as one of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Through The Davidson Trust, the college became the first liberal arts institution in the nation to replace loans with grants in all financial aid packages, giving all students the opportunity to graduate debt-free. Davidson competes in NCAA athletics at the Division I level, and a longstanding Honor Code is central to student life at the college.
Posted By: Bill Giduz