By Ben Westcott, Chronicle Staff Writer
“Name all of the planets in our solar system that have no moons,” said the moderator at the North Country Quiz Bowl at Queensbury High School last Wednesday.
To his right four students from Glens Falls High School pondered. To his left four students from South Glens Falls did the same.
But not for long. After two seconds, South High junior Paige Leggett buzzed in with the answer: Mercury and Venus.
The pattern of a pregnant pause culminating in Paige’s buzzer and a confident response was a common one, as the junior led South Glens Falls’ Rapid Recall team to victory in the Jeopardy-style competition.
Teams participating in Wednesday’s finals, in order of their ranking going into the event, were Lake George, Saratoga Springs Varsity, Schuylerville, South Glens Falls, Glens Falls, Hudson Falls, Saratoga Springs JV and Ticonderoga.
During the regular season the league included 20 teams from 16 high schools in five counties: Warren, Washington, Saratoga, Essex and Hamilton.
Each match contains four rounds of toss-up questions, bonus questions, and 60-second lightning round questions.
Pattye Nicolls has been the league’s commissioner since 2018, but has been involved with the organization for much longer, as Glens Falls’ coach for 15 years and a volunteer for three.
Volunteers send her questions for the Quiz Bowl, and she’ll come up with more herself, oftentimes by reading newspapers. Joe Laboda, a volunteer who submits questions, is former coach of Fort Ann’s team and he’s famous for having won at the real Jeopardy! twice in 1990.
“Some of us have been involved with this for over 20 years, and two of our members were once on winning teams themselves when they were in high school,” Ms. Nicolls said.
“We really do like to think of ourselves as a ‘family’ working together to give a bunch of our students a great experience, and to learn some stuff. We want them to leave at the end of the evening smarter than when they arrived.”
Now in its 36th year, North Country Quiz Bowl incorporated in 2022 as an independent not-for-profit 501(c)(3) adding a board of directors and treasurer. Teams pay $300 to participate.
On their way to the title, South Glens Falls defeated Glens Falls 290-220 in the quarterfinals, then Lake George 275-205 in the semis. In the finals, they defeated a Saratoga Springs team that had beaten them in the last three finals.
South High won this time by a score of 240-195.
Paige Leggett answered 40 “toss-up” questions correctly throughout the evening, easily the most on her team.
Her Rapid Recall teammates are senior captain Maddy Burleigh, seniors Rachel Jorgensen, Aiman Irfan and Adam Brennan, and juniors Sawyer Chapman and Jillian Wright.
“The team played well together,” said Michael Davies, who coaches the Bulldogs along with fellow teachers Jaime Thompson and Art Wexler. “We had some really timely answers.”
He noted that Leggett and Chapman are “two super geography kids.”
“Our job as coaches is really just putting the right team together,” Mr. Davies said. “What can you coach? The kids either know it, or they don’t. And luckily, it was just stuff that our kids knew.”
He talked about what NCQB can mean for the participants. “We usually have an athlete or two on the team, but it’s a way for kids who aren’t into athletics to represent the school,” he said. “It’s nice for kids who have no desire to play sports necessarily to still get to represent the school and fly the South High colors.”
Paige said, “Although it can be very competitive, we support one another. We have very good relationships amongst ourselves on the team. But I do take the competition aspect of it pretty seriously.”
How does she improve her game? “I spend hours and hours every day on the Internet looking at random facts, doing quizzes on JetPunk [an online trivia and quizzing website], and watching YouTube videos.”
Does she enjoy that? “Absolutely,” she answered, almost as quickly as when the moderator asked her which Civil War battle contained the infamous Pickett’s Charge minutes earlier. “It’s one of my favorite pastimes.”
Top two finishers South Glens Falls and Saratoga Springs each receive $1,300 from the NCQB organization to attend the 42nd Annual National Academic Championship, which takes place in May and June. Teams partake in preliminary-round phases either virtually or in New Orleans, Washington D.C. or Chicago. Third place Lake George can also attend the Championship, but the NCQB only funds the top two teams.
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