Eden Prairie High School’s quiz bowl team traveled to Georgia to compete against over 300 teams from across the country in a rapid-fire championship that put the minutiae of knowledge on center stage.
The high school’s top team tied for 31st place out of 336 teams at the May 25-26 tournament, placing them in the top 10 percent of teams in the nation, said coach Joshua Axtman.
Rohin Gurumurthy and Avery Lembke are two juniors who traveled with 14 teammates and two coaches to Atlanta, Georgia, on May 23 for the three-day national competition. They’ve been on the Quiz Bowl team since they first arrived at EPHS, but their love of knowledge has stretched throughout their lives.
“I was watching ‘Jeopardy!’ when I was young and thought ‘hey, I know some of these questions,’” Gurumuthy said. “We were the first in our friend group to say, let’s try Quiz Bowl.”
The pair were trendsetters. Many more friends followed in their footsteps, adding to the nearly 70-person team that makes trivia a high-stakes sport.
“I’ve always loved trivia,” Lembke said. She started her career on the Science Bowl team at Central Middle School and joined Quiz Bowl on the advice of her teacher. At first, she was intimidated by the difficulty of the questions in the competitions, she said, but as she became more familiar with the format, her confidence in her knowledge grew.
Lembke specializes in U.S. history, pop culture and mythology. She estimates that she’s competed in nearly 30 tournaments over three years — more than nearly anyone else on the team, Gurumuthy said.
“Avery is probably the best at pop culture,” he added. “I started off only knowing sports.”
Gurumuthy dove deeper into sports knowledge for his team and has also become an expert on geography and science. Teammates encourage each other to research subjects that interest them and team up to help each other study similar knowledge areas, but no one assigns topics to each other, Gurumuthy said.
The team was excited for the tournament, Lembke said, and worked hard to prepare. They sectioned off into four groups of four with experts on different subjects on every team.
“It’s hard to prepare for competing against people you don’t know,” Gurumuth added. “You’ve got to be a good team member.”
EPHS saw a few familiar faces in Atlanta: Teams from 12 Minnesota schools including Chanhassen High School, Wayzata High School and Mounds View High School were at the tournament, although Eden Prairie will be the biggest presence with four teams.
“It’s nice to know that we’re one of the top teams in the state,” Lembke noted.
Josh Axtman and Alex Bauer are the team’s coaches. Both are English teachers, and both were on their schools’ Knowledge Bowl teams in high school, which is a close cousin of Quiz Bowl. The team is an opportunity for students to flex their brains outside the classroom, Bauer said.
“These are kids who appreciate knowledge and have a lot of knowledge that doesn’t always get used in school,” he said. “They have a place to form a group with the people who respect their knowledge.”
The coaches handle travel logistics, help form teams and moderate practice sessions. They also get a window into the ever-widening world of knowledge that makes up a Quiz Bowl competition.
“I’ve learned that I don’t know that much,” Bauer laughed.