Skip to content

It’s Athletics For Your Brain


Scholar Bowl is “athletics for your brain.”

At least that’s how this sports editor views it, especially after talking with local Scholar Bowl coordinators Dr. Michael Ruch at Ste. Genevieve and Linda Trimmer and Sara Menard from Valle Catholic.

“Well, it is an official MSHSAA (Missouri High School Activities Association) activity,” Ruch said. “There are district, sectional and state tournaments.”

Ruch, who teaches American and world history at Ste. Genevieve, went on to note actual competitions are performed in halves, drawing another parallel to many sports.

To me, local Scholar Bowl competitions remind me of a television program based in Springfield, Mass., called “As Schools Match Wits.” I watched this show as a kid with my family next to a bowl of freshly-made buttered popcorn on Saturday evenings.

Public Broadcasting System stations in southern Illinois currently run a show called “High Q.”

Ruch remembers a program from the 1970s geared toward sixth-graders called D.B.’s Delight — a quiz show that ran on KMOV Channel 4 from 1977-88.

All of the coaches savor the sports element Scholar Bowl presents.

“I am amazed at what students know,” said Menard, who served as both English teacher and principal at Valle Catholic.

“I love to see the kids’ competitive nature,” said Linda Trimmer, whose husband, Chris, was one of the original Scholar Bowl coaches at Ste. Genevieve.

“Deep down, I’m a competitor,” Ruch said. “I have coached basketball. There’s stress, excitement, tension. Scholar Bowl captures all of that.”

Scholar Bowl first came into existence as an emerging activity from MSHSAA in the 1980s, becoming an officially sanctioned event in the mid-90s.

On March 20 at North County High School in Bonne Terre, both Ste. Genevieve and Valle Catholic participated in the Mineral Area Activities Association all-league meet.

Ste. Genevieve rallied to beat Valle Catholic, 270-210, in the preliminary round — before thumping Bismarck 220-30 and a close win over Fredericktown, 290-190.

The Dragons lost to host North County in the tournament semifinals, 220-180.

Ste. Genevieve then came from behind to beat West County, 240-120, in the consolation final for third place overall.

Ste. Genevieve student Kaylee Forhan’s performance was so noteworthy she made the MAAA all-conference team — finishing third among individuals.

Valle Catholic defeated Park Hills Central, 200-80, but lost to North County 230-160 in a hard-fought contest. The Warriors were unable to reach the championship round. The scores posted above were from varsity matches.

Joining Forhan on Ste. Genevieve’s varsity roster are Thomas Elder, Fred Brewer, Andrew Miget, Russell Kirkuff and Emma Flynn Tucker — the last student also known for her success in speech-and-debate competitions.

The Ste. Genevieve junior varsity squad consists of Chayse Bequette, Peyton Bequette, Finnegan Jokerst, Lucas Meier, Maria Kemper, Drew Newman, Dezirae Powell and Maddie Terry.

Valle Catholic’s Scholar Bowl thinkers are Audrey McDowell, Rylee Overmann, Emma Kraenzle, Kyle Steiger, Gage Heil, Ana Hendrixson, Theresa Steele, Camryn Skaggs, Truman Tucker, August Palmer, Matthew Gettinger, Logan Sellers and Brennden Pfaff, who was recently an Elks’ student of the month selection.

Halves consist of 26 toss-up questions, followed by three bonus questions.

Students’ reflexes are also tested, because the one who clicks in first illuminates a light and locks out the opposition — it’s very reminiscent of 1980s Jeopardy! Go back and watch an episode from this era on YouTube.

Trimmer was quick to point out that both the varsity and junior varsity squads answer the same questions. Yes, these questions are not grade specific for freshmen, for example, or seniors.

There are even competing companies with differing question sets, such as Avery and NAQT (National Academic Quiz Tournaments, LLC).

Students must possess a wide array of knowledge, especially considering toss-up and bonus question categories are never the same.

For example, from the NAQT National High School Championships sample questions in 2019, a math toss-up was followed by three bonus questions in British literature. And you thought curveballs were reserved for the pitcher’s mound.


Toss-up Question: A child in this film realizes pilot Roger Murdock is actually basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? Answer: Airplane!

Bonus Questions: Subject, architecture.

1, Name this 1923 book whose opening argument the statement, “the house is a machine for living in.” Answer: Towards A New Architecture.

2, This Swiss-French architect wrote Towards A New Architecture. Answer: Le Corbusier, or Charles-Eduoard Jeannert Gris also is acceptable.

3, In both Towards A New Architecture and his “Five Points on Architecture,” Le Corbusier advocated using this part of a building as space for a garden? Answer: Roof or rooftop.

Questions run the gamut from math, science, social studies and fine arts. Even wood shop and home economics questions are fair game. Pop culture, too.

Valle Catholic Scholar Bowl student August Palmer recently answered a question correctly on newcomer rapper Megan Thee Stallion.

If your team misses during the bonus questions, the opposing school can “rebound” with a correct answer, also known as “capitalization” on “As Schools Match Wits.”

Scholar Bowl is like football and basketball with substitutions for a fresh new team member. Matches consist of four players at a single time. There are timeouts, which can help with strategy.

What’s more, there are three officials, very much like what you’d see at a basketball game. The officials are the moderator (master of ceremonies), scorekeeper and timer. Once in a while those three people must confer to make the right judgment.

Even nutrition comes into play. Ruch advises students have a light lunch during competition day, and to refrain from drinking caffeine.