First-time Quiz Bowl champion’s son competes 25 years later

| December 19, 2017 | 0 Comments

From left, eighth-graders Colin Sullivan and Eric Mans of St. Rose of Lima Catholic School in Roseville put their brains to work Dec. 18 during the first round of the annual Quiz Bowl at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

St. Rose of Lima eighth-grader Colin Sullivan learned of his family and school’s Quiz Bowl legacy when he made the team in late November.

His father, Rick, helped the Roseville Catholic school win the championship for the first Catholic School Eighth Grade Quiz Bowl in 1993. St. Rose of Lima won against 35 other Catholic schools competing at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul. Colin competed for St. Rose of Lima in the Quiz Bowl Dec. 18 at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul with 44 schools and 176 students. Colin’s team finished seventh in the consolation bracket. St. John the Baptist in New Brighton won the event, defeating St. Thomas Academy in the final round, 18-14. It was the school’s first title.

“I knew he went to the same school, but I didn’t know he won the first Quiz Bowl tournament, so that’s pretty awesome to me,” Colin said. “I’ve got to live up to his image.”

“I’m excited. I hope he does well,” Rick, 38, said ahead of the championship. He now works as warehouse manager for an electronic design company. “I remember being there and just trying to answer as many questions as we could.”

For the past 25 years, Quiz Bowl has brought together more than 40 Catholic schools annually for academic competition. Eighth-grade students from K-8 Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis answer timed questions as a team of four on various subjects for up to six rounds of competition. Subjects are math, science, history, religion and social studies.

With only five seconds, students must think quickly to hit a buzzer to answer non-math questions. They get 10 seconds for math questions, and no calculators are allowed.

Quiz Bowl began in 1993 as an initiative of the Catholic high school admissions directors in the archdiocese, who still sponsor the event. They wanted to highlight academic achievement and connect eighth-graders with the Catholic high schools. Each high school plays a role in organizing the event and managing one of the 12 classrooms for the competition.

“Everybody loved it,” said Mike O’Keefe, vice president for advancement at DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis, one of the founding admissions directors. “What it really did is it afforded elementary schools an opportunity to recognize four outstanding students in each of their eighth grades and provide them with an event where they could be recognized for their academic accomplishments.”

Preparation for Quiz Bowl varies from school to school. Some practice with buzzers, aiming to win, while others come for fun. O’Keefe said they don’t have preparation requirements for competing.

“There’s many stories throughout the years where schools did almost no prep work,” O’Keefe said. “They just picked four kids who were outstanding students and brought them to Quiz Bowl and ended up winning the whole thing.”

St. Rose of Lima had prep work before the Quiz Bowl in 1993. Pat Maroney, the coach and a middle school teacher at the time, had a quiz for the students to earn the four spots on the team instead of going with the highest GPA.

“It basically showed me who had the most knowledge and who could also probably answer the questions very quickly,” Maroney said.

St. Rose of Lima came close to winning the championship several times during Maroney’s time, but didn’t win it all again. Both Maroney and Rick Sullivan said Matt Zubrzycki played a big role in the 1993 team’s success.

“The rest of the team all answered questions, but he answered the most questions,” Maroney said. “He just knew everything about everything, and that’s what you need to win this competition.”

In addition to the team practices at St. Rose of Lima this year, Colin plans to stay sharp by playing trivia with his family and using trivia games on his computer or phone.

“When we’re at the dinner table, I break out the trivia cards, and we trade, reading cards to each other,” Rick said.

Maroney also had a family connection from the first Quiz Bowl. St. Joseph in Rosemount, the 1993 runner-up, had Eric Maroney, a son of Pat’s cousin, on the team.

“I didn’t know anything about it until I walked in there, and I saw his wife [there to support Eric],” Pat said. “It was kind of awkward, but I think we both handled it pretty well.”

Winning the Quiz Bowl has been a source of school pride for past champions. St. Charles Borromeo Catholic School in St. Anthony, for instance, had a pep rally afterward the year it won.

Charlie Rooney, who competed for Carondelet Catholic School in Minneapolis in the 2000s, made it big later with another Quiz Bowl-type event. He competed for the “Jeopardy!” College Championship in 2012.

“This really has provided an opportunity for good students to be recognized and celebrated for how much they know and how well they’ve been taught,” O’Keefe said about Quiz Bowl. “So much of our world is focused on athletics.”

O’Keefe noted that many of the competitors continue Catholic education in high school, and some have gone on to work in Catholic schools. That’s the case for Colin’s coach, Meghan Twohy, a middle school teacher at St. Rose of Lima who once competed for Holy Childhood in St. Paul.

“For me, it’s fun to see them experience the same thing that I had, which was that moment of allowing your knowledge to shine,” Twohy said. “It’s a great opportunity for them to see other kids from other [Catholic] schools that are just like them and feel that connectedness and then have fun with it all, too.”

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