SB Scholastic Bowl Team Wins Quiz Show Competition

Ben Nichols, Bulldog Media President

“It was actually very chill — more chill than expected,” senior Gabriel Figueroa said after he and his team won the It’s Academic! quiz show competition for SBHS.


The competition took place on Nov. 1, pitting Figueroa and fellow seniors TJ Santoro and Jack McGarrity against teams from Westfield and Chantilly. They won with an overall score of 430 points. The taping of their show will air at 10 a.m. on Dec. 26 on the NBC4 channel.


“It felt much more casual,” Santoro said. “None of the usual glitz and glamor you get when filming a Saturday morning public access TV show. This year, I was just sitting at a table in my basement with a desk lamp shining in my face, as per the director’s instructions.”


After succeeding in the first round, the team will move on to the next round of questions. The date and challengers in that next round are not yet determined.


“We have video calls every Wednesday and Friday where we go over old packets of questions, which is more helpful than you might think,” Santoro said. “The pool of knowledge these competitions draw from is often smaller than you would expect.”


Although the quiz show was conducted virtually, the seniors didn’t seem to have trouble removing distractions from their environment and focusing on the questions. 


“I just had to respectfully brief my family on when to be quiet and ignore the list of Roman Emperors behind me, which always beckons my eyes,” Figueroa said.


The seniors also had little trouble finding a way to practice in the midst of a pandemic, choosing to start each meeting with time to hang out and talk in order to build up comradery with each other. According to Figueroa, the team’s members each specialized in certain areas that helped bring them to success.


“We were fortunate in that we can conduct our meetings pretty easily over a video call,” Santoro said. “Our team is just a group of friends. Nobody has anything to prove. No one gets mad at others’ wrong answers, because all of us have given many embarrassingly wrong answers of our own.”


Due to the challenges faced by the organizers in adapting the quiz show to technological limitations, the rounds were changed to no longer be toss ups and teams could take their time answering questions. 


“You have to listen closely to each word the reader says and answer once your brain is burning with the right answer,” Figueroa said. “Otherwise, you might end up humiliating yourself on television — not that I’d know anything about that.”


“It’s Academic” is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s longest running TV quiz show, 2019-2020 being their 60th season of telecasts. Notable quizmasters included Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, Larry Hogan, Charles Schumer, and Clarence Thomas.


“The show ran smoothly,” Santoro said. “I hope they continue to give the other teams harder questions than they gave us.”