It’s a run that began back in 2004, and has continued every year that the state Knowledge Bowl tournament has been staged.
When this year’s Mountain Lion brainiacs travel to Richland on Saturday (March 19) for the 2022 state championships, it will be 17 consecutive appearances, and their 19th since a second-place finish at the 2000 tournament, the first for Liberty Bell High School.
Indeed, 2002 and ’03 are the only years Liberty Bell doesn’t show in the state results. They earned the 2022 trip with a 2B regional first-place finish last month at Wenatchee High School.
Included in that run of state appearances are several runner-up places and two sate titles, the latest in 2019, the last year the tournament was held before the COVID break. Liberty Bell has alternated in the top two the past four tournaments, earning runner-up in 2016 and ’18, winning also in 2017.
Only one member remains from the 2019 team to defend the title this year in senior Alex Eslava. He was an alternate as a freshman on that championship team. Per Dillingham and Rocco Wildman fill out the top three spots. Sophia Newton, Angel Arellano and Ken Hussey will rotate in through the competition, according to coach Leverett Hubbard.
Hubbard is cautiously optimistic about the Mountain Lions’ chances. “It’s hard to tell since it’s been two years since the last tournament,” said the longtime Liberty Bell coach. “We haven’t had a chance to scope out the up-and-comers at the other schools the past two years.”
“We have great kids, but a team can’t win this as individuals. It’s a team effort with multiple experts,” the coach noted.
Newton, a soccer player in the fall and a tennis player in the spring, is excited about the return to the state tradition in her first, and last, year with Knowledge Bowl. “It’s super fun,” she said. “You have to be into it to really enjoy it.”
A Knowledge Bowl tournament consists of two parts: The morning session is a written exam where up to six team members can participate. The afternoon session is a series of four head-to-head competitions where each school has a four-member panel that competes against two other teams in an oral answer rounds.
The teams rotate after each 50-question round so all teams face each other at least once in the oral rounds. The scores from the four preliminary oral rounds are combined with the scores from the written round to determine the participants in the semi-finals, which then determine which schools head to the finals, again a head to head oral round. The eventual champion is determined from the combined scores over the day.
“We’ve had to adjust a bit to a new question vendor,” said Hubbard. “There seems to be more of an emphasis on pop culture stuff, but still the usual balance of science, math, social studies, some foreign languages, literature and more academic subjects. It is truly a team sport and the way we succeed is to get a wide range of kids who can cover everything from anatomy to zoology.”