The four members of Hannibal High School's Academic Team returned from National Academic Quiz Tournaments (NATQ) national competition in Atlanta with a closer bond than ever and new friends from a field of 338 teams.
Team members Brecklyn Booth, Anna Richardson, Xavier Pociask and team captain Jessica Stinson competed in 12 rounds, each containing more than 20 questions and bound by a nine-minute time limit, coach Linda Stinson said. Along the way, they met friends from communities across the country along with fellow competitors from the Show-Me State. Throughout the weekend, the team members maintained ways to keep a light-hearted attitude amid the rigors of competition — including making their traditional loon call at Atlanta Zoo to represent their unofficial mascot.
Jessica said that while the team members got the chance to visit destinations like the Coca-Cola factory and the zoo, they studied hard leading up to their trip and made sure to wake up an hour early to pore over questions before joining the competition again.
“The whole tournament, it was always really anxious or really fun,” Xavier said. “There was no in-between.”
Xavier said he plans to study a lot more maps next year. He recalled a competitor from Georgia who knew that Hannibal was in Marion County, even though he had never visited the area.
Anna said she learned to pay close attention to details during the fast-paced rounds of competition.
“I think it was a good experience overall. I thought it was fun, just to compete with the others and see what they knew,” Anna said. “And how different the questions were, it just showed that you pay attention to the details when you study, because they ask detailed questions.”
Jessica agreed, saying knowing small details can make a big difference for the team.
“I thought it was really fun,” she said. “There were several of them that we would all know the answers to, but with the clues that they give, some kid might know the answer with one key phrase at the very beginning. So it's kind of crazy to see how much they study and how much information they can retain.”
Students showed a high level of sportsmanship throughout the competition, shaking hands and applauding one another. Even though the HHS team didn't make it farther toward the Playoffs level, they gained valuable skills and constant encouragement.
“Strangers just became a community,” she said.
Throughout their trip, each team member got to visit the destinations they looked forward to in Atlanta — including the panda bears and marine ecosystem at Zoo Atlanta, the dolphin show and tours of the Coca-Cola factory and CNN. Just out front of the CNN offices, a statue of three characters from the animated series “We Bare Bears” inspired three team members to pick the bear that fit them best.
“We ended up finding a bear for each of our personalities, so Anna is Panda, I'm Ice Bear and Xavier is Grizzly,” Jessica said. “We were watching the cartoon... and we were laughing at events that happened in Atlanta — like me spilling my coffee, or Anna being on her phone all the time like Panda, or Grizzly making new friends.”
Coach Linda Stinson laughed along with the team members as they recounted moments like when Anna got caught in a water spray in the Fountain of Rings at Centennial Olympic Park and a photo of Xavier laying on the floor with his head propped on a folder following a stint of exhaustive studying.
Jessica hopes to participate in quiz bowl at the University of Chicago next year.
Stinson said this year’s experience will help in building a team for next year through the close bonds that were formed and the knowledge everyone gained.
“It was a rewarding experience,” she said. “And we bonded as a team — we had a lot of fun. We got to know each other really well.”