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Returning Scholar Quiz Champs Nab Second Title

Mar 27, 2024 10:16PM ● By Jeanne Fratello

Left to right: MBUSD Superintendent John Bowes, team members Keith Daniels, Caden Coons, Akash Mishra, Devan Malik, and Mira Costa Principal Karina Gerger. Photo credit: Kate Malik

Last year's Mira Costa Scholar Quiz champs performed a rare feat on Tuesday: The quick-thinking foursome came back to earn the title for the second year in a row. 

Seniors Devan Malik, Akash Mishra, Caden Coons, and Keith Daniels claimed victory in the rapid-fire quiz game, after having won an upset victory in 2023 as juniors. After last year's win, Team Malik promised that they'd be back, and they came through on that promise, claiming the title with a score of 205-155 over the team of Hudson Long, Declan Owen, Dylan Hughes, and Cameron Hughes.

The final round marked the culmination of a week's worth of activity, in which 64 four-person teams got narrowed down into the final round of four against four.

More than 140 volunteers helped out as flag judges, scorers, and readers - including many teachers who have been volunteering for years.

“This year’s Scholar Quiz brought out the best in so many people," Scholar Quiz committee chair Brandi Greenberg told MB News. "We had a fantastic, experienced committee working diligently to create a positive experience for the volunteers, teachers, and students. We had so many people taking time out of their busy days to help run the matches. We had students showcasing impressive knowledge across a huge array of subjects. And we had packed rooms all week - filled with students cheering on their friends and fellow competitors. The atmosphere was just electric.”

On the day of the finals, Mira Costa Principal Karina Gerger served as emcee and flag judge, MBUSD Superintendent John Bowes was the reader, and Mayor Joe Franklin introduced the volunteers and the participants. (Franklin and Bowes - both Scholar Quiz fans - had helped out in earlier rounds as well.)

The competitors were kept on their toes with challenging questions and "lightning rounds" demanding even faster responses. In the first lightning round, for example, every answer had diamonds, rubies, emeralds, or sapphires in it, such as ruby slippers or Arizona Diamondbacks. In another lightning round, every answer had “CAR” somewhere in the answer. In the final lightning round, participants had to fill in the blank on famous painting names, such as Van Gogh’s Starry X, Da Vinci’s Last X, Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the X, etc.

"These students were fast, sharp, and mostly accurate," Franklin told MB News. "The questions displayed a depth of knowledge in a wide variety of subject areas: math, science, arts, literature, music, and politics...It would give Jeopardy a run for its money!"

(Photo credit: Joe Franklin)

Besides receiving the Sean Barnes Memorial Trophy, the winners earned commemorative plaques and a prize of $50 each. The second place team received plaques and a prize of $30 each.

The members of two other semi-finalist teams also received plaques and $20 each.

The Mira Costa PTSA sponsored the plaques and cash prizes, along with providing lunches to the teachers whose classrooms were used for the earlier days of the competition and supplying volunteers to run the competitions.

The Mira Costa PTSA has supported the competition through the years, working first alongside a previous sponsor, Body Glove, and now with Study Hut.

Study Hut provided all of the questions for the Scholar Quiz tournament and donated Scholar Quiz commemorative T-shirts for all of the students who made it past the first round of the competition. Study Hut co-founders and co-owners Rob Stone and Sean-Patrick Burke are Mira Costa and Scholar Quiz alums.

A Longtime Mira Costa Tradition

Mira Costa's Scholar Quiz is a beloved tradition that dates back to the 1980s. 

The “original 5” who launched the annual tournament included Bill Fauver, a history and government teacher, counselor Denise Anderson, former principal Gary Hartzell, social studies teacher Jerry Quigley, and social studies teacher Jim Ruderman.

Fauver, who participated in the Quiz Bowl at UCLA, first introduced the idea of bringing the event to Costa to Hartzell. The "original 5" then met at the old IHOP in Hermosa Beach in 1986 to develop the competition. 

Fauver ran the competition in collaboration with Mira Costa's PTSA for the next 13 years until 1999, and then handed the reins over to Steve Singiser, a current social studies teacher who is a Costa alum and was a member of a winning Scholar Quiz team.

(Joe Franklin poses with retired Pacific teacher Susan Stelter, who taught almost all of the competitors in this year's Scholar Quiz finals, and who also taught Franklin's children.)

The popular competition is also known for bringing back Scholar Quiz alumni, often college students who are home on break. 

Ethan Greenberg, who was part of the winning team in 2022, served on the committee and helped out while at home for spring break. “What makes Mira Costa’s Scholar Quiz so special is that it’s the one week of the year where the nerds rule the school," he said.

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