On Thursday night, question topics ranging from the Declaration of Independence to the writings of Longfellow were answered at the Sixth Annual Sarah Bayrd Memorial American History Bowl. The Bowl was held in the Brentwood Municipal Center and was organized by the Brentwood Historic Commission.
While all teams at times came up with some impressive answers, in the end one team came out on top after the contest’s five rounds. They did so by the slimmest of margins.
Nolensville High School was one student away from not competing at all. Coach Bryant Gunter explained how it just so happened that a school band concert had been scheduled on the same night as the History Bowl. As a result, a couple of his students dropped out.
One ninth-grader in Gunter’s AP Geography class, however, stepped up to keep the high school, which is in its first year, in the Bowl.
“I consider myself pretty interested in history,” David Taylor said. “I like learning about history.”
The majority of the competitors Thursday night were upperclassmen, either juniors or seniors who had previously taken or were in the midst of taking AP U.S. History. That fact did not daunt Taylor, though. Win or lose, he was there to get the most out of the event.
“I’m kind of in this for the experience,” Taylor said, “just to be able to know what it’s like.” He added that by the time he actually gets to take AP U.S. history in a couple of years, he will both be more prepared for that class and more prepared to tackle the bowl again because of his participation Thursday night.
Another couple of freshman competitors were Rithika Tummala and Hayden Teeter, both on the Ravenwood High School team.
“I volunteered,” Tummala said. “I was really interested in history and I thought it was a good chance for me to present my knowledge.”
“I love history. It’s my biggest passion,” Teeter said.
The pair were joined by a History Bowl veteran, 11th grader Noelle Link. She was a member of last year’s fourth-place Ravenwood team. She enjoyed her experience last year, but made it clear she was looking for a victory Thursday.
“I thought it was really fun, but I want to win this year,” she said.
Proving that the night was not confined strictly to history buffs, the Ravenwood team was led by an algebra teacher, Clark Ramey. Ramey led the team because of his own experience competing in quiz bowls back when he was a student.
Tennessee’s State Librarian and Archivist and Brentwood Historic Commissioner Chuck Sherrill read out all the questions for the contest, while former NewsChannel 5 anchor Chris Clark introduced students at the beginning and engaged in some between-round patter throughout the evening.
The competition itself consisted of four regular rounds, with one Final Jeopardy round at the end. The rules for this event were identical to those of a real game show. Even if a student knew the answer, if they were unable to press the buzzer quick enough, they were out.
“I’m going to practice and go home and work on my video games, hand-eye coordination,” Page High School student, Chuka Onuh answered when asked by Clark exactly how he was going to prepare for next year’s bowl.
“I meant history!” Clark said.
Time and again, students showed a knack for historical knowledge beyond their years, answering questions that no doubt befuddled many adults in the room.
“What was Sutter’s Mill famous for?” Sherrill asked. Come again? Yet, there was Rithika, the Ravenwood ninth-grader buzzing in right away with the correct answer.
Entering the final round, Franklin High School had a clear, if not insurmountable lead. The final question, though, was an exceedingly tricky one that ended up causing several schools’ scores to plummet after they put down big wagers.
“How many years can one serve as President of the United States?” Sherrill asked.
Most people know that after Franklin Roosevelt was elected four times, the 22nd amendment was passed limiting Presidents to two terms. So, naturally a majority of teams put eight years as their answer.
It makes sense, but it is incorrect. According to the 22nd amendment, a President can actually serve 10 years. Two terms with the possibility of up to an additional two years if they start their Presidency by filling out the term of another who either dies or otherwise leaves office.
Ravenwood’s team lost almost all of their points. David Taylor from Nolensville saw his total cut in half.
Brentwood High School got it right. They had wagered everything and ended up with 10,000 points.
Franklin High School also got it right, and in a shrewd move they had wagered just enough to make their score unreachable. They won the bowl with 10,001 points.
Before presenting the first place trophy, Brentwood Historic Commission chair Anne Goad made some remarks about the evening, reminding attendees that the history bowl had been named in honor of a beloved Brentwood High history teacher, Sarah Bayrd.
“She not only was a great teacher, but she gave a love of history to her students and made them really want to be a part of history,” Goad said, “and we really appreciate her teaching, and unfortunately she met an untimely death in an accident a few years ago, but she’s living on with our History Bowl.”
After posing for photos, the Franklin High School team reflected on their victory.
“I feel really relieved. It was really close,” 11th-grader Will Haslam said. Haslam, with a couple of friends, is the founder of the website historyfactsdaily.co, which provides daily nuggets of historical information for the curious.
Tian Geng, a senior, was just happy that the team did not end up with zero points like she said it did the year before after risking it all in Final Jeopardy.
Another senior, Bailey Lanai, summed up the victory in terms likely to appeal to many of his classmates. “We came in with the goal of beating Brentwood, and we did it by one point so that’s what we’re most proud of,” he said.
Their coach, Ray Scheetz, who teaches History of the Americas at Franklin High, said he was happy to win again. The team previously won in 2013. “It’s our second time to win,” he said. “We’ve been looking forward to getting the trophy back.”
Co-coach Blake Lannom, who teaches AP European History, put the victory all on the shoulders of his students. “For the most part these guys were really self-sufficient,” he said, preparing for the bowl by studying on their own. “We’d love to take credit but we can’t.”
If one sentiment could sum up the whole evening, though, it would not be one about winning or losing. It would be like the one offered by Fairview High School student Donavan Brown, who was asked by Chris Clark to explain how she felt about history.
“There’s just something about history,” she said. “I think you can always learn from the past.”