Ever wondered what region was known as the "tinderbox of Europe" (the Balkan Peninsula), what founding father appointed John Marshall as the chief justice of the Supreme Court (John Adams) or what is a simpler way of saying "it is fruitless to endure lacrimation over precipitately departed lacteal fluid" (Don’t cry over spilt milk)? Then students from Longfellow Middle School would be the ones to ask.
Their quiz bowl team won the Junior National Academic Championship for the second year in a row June 7, answering questions about history, literature and science better than 21 other teams.
Longfellow’s team didn’t just win the championship for the second year in a row, it dominated the competition, defeating the Manheim Township team 555 to 300 in the final round. Longfellow fell behind in the first part of the finals, but rebounded to sweep the Shakespeare category and setting a record with seven straight correct answers to start the second part. Team members answered questions on diverse subjects such as Americana, historical geography, U.S. history, literature, classical music, vocabulary and U.S. government.
"This is the best group I’ve ever had, the knowledge of everyone in this group surpasses any I’ve ever coached," said Eugene Huang, math teacher at Longfellow and the team’s coach. "I think we’re lucky that we get kids who grow up in houses that emphasize knowing things. They’re exposed to so many different cultures, fields of study, languages and arts. "
DURING THE SCHOOL YEAR, members of the quiz bowl team squared off against high-school teams in the area, such as Thomas Jefferson High School, where several members of the team are headed next year.
If quiz bowl is their sport, then Jonathan Leidenheimer is their All-Star. He took home his second MVP title this year, and his exploits are so well known that the press release for this year’s competition read, "Are your students as smart as Jonathan Leidenheimer?"
"It’s just really fun. I’m pretty good at it, but there’s no way I’d do it if I didn’t like it so much," Leidenheimer said. "I’ve just got a photographic memory. I don’t study all that much, I just read a lot, and I cruise around Wikipedia, and I just take it all in."
Leidenheimer will be attending Thomas Jefferson in the fall, where he will join the team he has practiced against for the past few years.
Carole Kihm, principal at Longfellow, said that while the students are the ones getting it done on the "field," that the structure around them helps the students to realize their potential.
"We have a lot of really intelligent, academic students. Being smart is a cool thing at Longfellow," Kihm said. "We also get so much support from the parents, and our faculty is continually inspiring excellence."
Some team members have always had an interest in trivia, and when they got to Longfellow, the quiz bowl team seemed like a natural outlet for that enthusiasm.
"I’ve always liked trivia, I watch ‘Jeopardy’ all the time," said Nadege Aoki, the team’s captain. "You come to use your own knowledge, and you acquire new skills along the way."
AOKI is another eighth-grader who will be heading to Thomas Jefferson in the fall, and like some of her teammates, she’s looking forward to a much more rigorous schedule of events.
"There’s really no official middle-school circuit in this area, the high school circuit is more established, there’s more tournaments, it’s more credible." Aoki said.
While the team is losing some of their top members to high school next year, Leidenheimer said that they’ll do just fine next year.
"They’ve got some big shoes to fill, but they’re very good, very professional," he said. "I’m looking forward to playing against them next year."