On January 28, MSJ Science Bowl Team A rose through the ranks of twenty teams at the Sandia National Laboratories High School Regional Science Bowl to secure an overall first place win and qualify for the 2023 National Finals in Washington D.C, held from April 27 to May 1. Consisting of members Co-Captain Senior Jerry Yuan, Co-Captain Senior Samuel Zhou, Junior Sahas Goli, Junior Gokulanath Mahesh Kumar, and Junior Annie Xu, the team maintained a winning streak throughout its first seven games, losing just once to Dougherty Valley High School, an eight-year regional champion, before beating them in the final round.
Regional Science Bowl tournaments take the form of round-robin groups, then double elimination brackets, with questions increasing in difficulty as a team progresses through the rounds. Members receive a series of clues and buzz in when they’ve ascertained the answer. Topics range from Earth science to particle physics. A correct answer earns four points and a 10-point bonus question, but an incorrect answer gives the other team the opportunity to steal the toss-up question. A team wins the game if it has the most points after the 16-minute time limit or completes all 24 questions first.
As the tournament opened, Team A launched into a winning streak, placing first in their round-robin bracket and swiftly moving into the double elimination rounds. However, at the start of the final round, the team’s fatigue resulted in a single loss to Dougherty Valley. “It’s definitely a lot more nerve wracking when you play a team that has been historically very good because you don’t know what level they would be at this year,” Goli said.
Despite their initial loss, Team A had one more opportunity: a perfect record in the round-robin bracket gives a team two lives before being eliminated. Starting 10 points down at halftime, the team rallied their concentration and regained their momentum, buzzing in before Dougherty Valley every time and preventing them from earning a single point in the second half.
Team A’s first place finish stems from a tight-knit team culture: though every member specializes in a certain subject, the team’s cohesion kicked in at crucial moments during the tournament. “Even though I usually do the math questions, my mind blanked for one of them, and Gokul was able to easily pick up where I left off,” Zhou said. “And so it was just small moments like that that always helped us throughout regionals, picking up where other people fall off a little bit, helping them get back to their feet.”
To prepare for the increased difficulty of the National Finals, Science Bowl has a series of invitational tournaments and scrimmages lined up over the next few months. On February 4, the team competed against a pool of forty teams around the nation in the student-run Prometheus tournament, placing sixth overall and qualifying for the Olympus national invitational on April 2. By facing diverse opponents and targeting areas of improvement, the team hopes to bolster their performance in the face of unpredictable scenarios. “We just need to be prepared to deal with whatever situation and whatever team we may face,” Zhou said.
At the National Finals, Team A aims for a top 10 finish. Last year’s team placed second nationally, so members will strive to uphold MSJ’s record. More than the competition, however, members look forward to reuniting with a passionate and like-minded community. “It’s exciting to get to go to DC because you’re going to meet a lot of teens from across the nation,” Xu said. “Science Bowl’s community is very online-based, so you’re meeting a lot of friends when you go.”
Photos courtesy of MSJ Science Bowl