These Beavercreek students did something only one other Ohio school has ever done, and their path had an extra challenge

(From left) David Cohen, Abby Cohen, Hari Parameswaran, Ziyi Zuo
(From left) David Cohen, Abby Cohen, Hari Parameswaran, Ziyi Zuo

After winning the state competition and dominating the Greater Western Ohio Conference, the Beavercreek Academic Team achieved what few schools in Ohio have ever accomplished.

Out of 352 teams, the Beavers took fifth place at the National Academic Quiz Tournament this past weekend in Atlanta.

That is the second-best finish at “quiz bowl” finish of any school in Ohio’s history, according to Joseph Czupryn, executive director of Ohio Academic Competition.

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“It was the largest field of teams ever for the national tournament,” Czupryn said.

In 2005, a team from Solon High School near Cleveland finished fourth out of a field of 96 teams, according to Czupryn.

Hari Parameswaran, the team captain who will be a senior next year, led the four-member varsity team comprising seniors Ziyi Zuo and David Cohen and sophomore Abby Cohen.

Abby Cohen, Hari Parameswaran, Ziyi Zuo, David Cohen
Abby Cohen, Hari Parameswaran, Ziyi Zuo, David Cohen

Among all the competitors, Parameswaran finished with the second-highest individual score.

Ellen Spence, French teacher and former high school quiz bowl competitor, said she volunteered two years ago to coach and bring back the academic program that had not been active at Beavercreek High School for years.

“No one had coached for about seven years,” Spence said. “No one really knew anything about the program, so we learned as we went.”

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The quiz bowl program lasts throughout the year. The team starts studying and practicing in September, and the season culminates with the national event, Spence said.

Last year, the team finished 40th at NAQT, and that was a “big achievement,” Spence said.

Doing so well at the national level this year was especially notable because Spence missed several months of the season while on maternity leave from October to February.

Spence said she relied on Parameswaran to gather study materials and prepare the team.

“The season starts in September and runs through June. These kids, their motivation didn’t dwindle. They studied and worked really hard. It paid off,” she said.

The NAQT competition format consists of questions that any individual team member can buzz in to answer about literature, history, science, fine arts and other topics. Teams gain points based on answering questions quickly and accurately in timed matches, Czupryn said.

Spence said teams can prepare for quiz bowl competitions by simply paying attention in school, but also practicing answering questions quickly and studying lists such as important paintings to know, the painters and where the pieces are on display.

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Juli Cohen, mother of two team members, said she and Parameswaran’s mother helped with organization and logistics in Spence’s absence this year.

“As a parent, it seems like the season never ends,” Cohen said. “The kids were really motivated this year.”

Other notable finishes among local schools at this year’s NATQ include the Miami Valley School (20th), Tippecanoe High School (199th) and Northmont High School (228th).

The Beavercreek team heads for one more national competition this weekend — PACE near Washington D.C.

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