Road to a National Championship

A couple of days ago, I was talking to Israel Henriquez about some article ideas for the summer. I suggested that he should write some study tips for the summer. He suggested that I should write what it was like to win the national championship. Israel, here’s my part of the bargain.

I’m going to write this from my own point of view rather than just tell about results at one tournament after another. Hopefully this way will be more interesting.

A good understanding of most major accomplishments must start even before the work for it begins. This is no different.

I started Bible Quizzing when I was in the 11th grade. My motivation for it was not very good. At Athens Christian School (from here on Athens or ACS) we had a period set aside every day for either chapel or Bible class. The Bible class that I was in was, at least in my tenth grade mind, boring. The Bible Quiz team, on the other hand, got to go outside every now and then to study their Bible verses. So my first reason for joining the Bible Quiz team was to leave Bible Quiz. The second reason is probably even worse. That year, I was in a study hall with mostly 7th graders with only a couple of people my age. Two of them, Chris Fenton and David Poston were on the Bible Quiz team. The teacher permitted them to go out in the hall every day and practice while everyone else had to be silent inside the classroom. So Dusty Logan (the crazy hair guy on our team), who was also in the same study hall and Bible class, and I joined the Bible Quiz team.

I think I need to move along a little because I’m not even up to 11th grade yet, and we didn’t win the national championship until 12th. Here’s the quick summary of 11th grade. We had a senior guy on our team named Jim Henderson who memorized all of Galatians, Ephesians,… And we had about 5 or 6 other guys who were pretty competitive with each other. I guess we had low expectations that year because we were pretty glad when we got 7th at New Year’s Classic. We couldn’t go to nationals that year because our school had just moved into the league with public schools so AACS was prohibited. Anyway we went to SCQANIT, and I think we got a loss fairly early, and then just kept managing to hang on. I remember one quiz with about 7 or 8 teams left against Woodside and Capitol City, neither of which I had quizzed before, but whom I had heard were the best teams in the history of the world. Miraculously, we escaped out of that quiz, I think with the high win. At the end of the day, we were ecstatic to finish 4th.

After that we came back and had a cookout to celebrate the great season and “kickoff” the next one. According to Mr. Bamford, we all decided that we were going to study like crazy and win the nationals the next year. I don’t specifically remember this instance, but I’m sure it really happened because we were always talking about how great we were going to be.

The summer started and Mr. Bamford decided that we were going to cover the entire book of John. I didn’t think that was a great idea because, at least to me, it was impossible to memorize the whole book over the summer and I always liked to have the stuff we were doing memorized. Anyway, I went off to camp for most of the summer, Chris, Tex, Tommy DePriest and Russell Martin all worked, and Dusty ended up being the only main person who went to practice during the summer. So fall came and we were behind everyone else. Our first quiz of the year came at PQA against a team from Faith led by Joy Burrows. Our PQA teams was fairly stacked—me, Russell, and Tex, along with Freddy Dove and Andrea Martin (both of whom are above average). But we got smoked that first quiz. Joy was jumping like lightning and never missing and well, we just got killed.

Moving along. During the first half of the season, Dusty was our best quizzer. He dominated all of their quizzes (along with Chris and Tommy) and the finished PQA undefeated. Our team, not so great, like 6-4 or something.

We won our first tournament ever (that we had been a part of) at the Midseason Invitational. Then we won another tournament at Southside. So we were on a roll coming into the New Year’s Classic.

I would say that NYC was our best tournament of the year. To the best of my knowledge, Athens has never won it (or maybe that’s PQA tournament)—Well, we at least haven’t won it in a long time. We were really sharp. I would say that Tex, Dusty, and I had all peaked at NYC and we just felt like we were dominating everyone (although I do remember a quiz in which we were facing what we thought were little kids that didn’t know anything who beat—but it was okay because those little girls had the last name Carbonell). Anyway, NYC turned out to be one of the biggest disappointments ever because we felt like we were stronger than the FQA Loaves (led by Paul Austin). They beat us twice in a row to win first place.

The PQA tournament was after that. Before this year (when we won it), Athens has stunk at PQA. For some reason, we just could not win two team quizzes consistently. Somehow, all three of our teams ended up in the same part of the losers’ bracket. Dusty and Tommy’s team beat the 3rd team. Then we beat their team—that was the highlight of the day for Athens though as we got beat in the next round by Hampton Park—Sidenote: in my two years of quizzing at PQA, all 4 of my losses came to Hampton Park—what could have been if it weren’t for Abby Garland and Mary Berg.

The next big thing was state. Except in Georgia (and I don’t want to hurt any feelings) but the rest of the teams are, to put it mildly, not so great. We split up into two good teams and won first and second—of course my team came in second—I think Tommy, Chris, and I may be the only people not to win their state championship and then win nationals.

And now we finally come to Championship Week. Pleasant View let us stay in their “hotel”—I’m not really sure what it was, but it had beds in it. We stayed up way too late on Sunday night. On Monday, we quizzed great to start with. We rolled into the afternoon as one of the last couple of teams not to have a low. But that soon changed. We got caught in a quiz with Faith and Old Paths, and I think that I quizzed out early and we had the lead but we made some errors after that (not an uncommon thing) and failed to get any right and took a low. I guess that one was understandable because they were the best teams there. But then we quizzed against like Florida and maybe Capitol City. They weren’t quite at our level, but we took another loss. That one was really my fault. You’ve probably seen where Matt West has written that having top quizzer awards has made quizzing worse in a lot of ways. I would say that was true of me at SCQANIT. I don’t think that my main goal was to get top quizzer, but I did have it in the back of my mind. We finished 7th, and I regret that a lot.

I have to give a lot of credit to Mr. Bamford for getting things straightened out. I guess he knows me better than I think he does because we had a talk afterwards. We both knew that it was better for me to get 3 or 4 right and 0 wrong than to have all the quizzes with 6 right and 4 wrong. I just had to get my pride out of the way.

We were a different team at Nationals the next day. I don’t think we had too many more of the 10+ error games. We had some really good quizzes in the morning and we had some where we were just satisfied with middle wins, which probably made Mr. Bamford even happier. I remember one quiz where Jesse Campbell (he’s from Spring City but I’m sure everyone knows this guy) was just lighting it up. I really wanted to try to go faster and match him, but we decided to quiz slow, let Jesse quiz out, and got a middle. We seemed to do that a lot at nationals. We just escaped with like 80 points in a lot of quizzes. The worst part of the day was one quiz in Mr. Craig Scott’s room. I was quizzing bad, we had a call go against us that could have gone either way, and then I thought that he made another bad call (which it turned out he was 100% correct on and I was 100% wrong on) that threw me over the edge. Mr. Bamford called a timeout and I think I said something like “This guy is cheating us!” loud enough for everyone in the room to hear. Mr. Bamford took me out for that one. We were behind, but Tommy came up with like the last 3 out of 4 questions or something to save us. We had several more bad quizzes after that, but somehow managed to survive each time. At the very end of the day, we had the best quizzes ever. We were scoring like 250 against really good teams. The best quiz I can remember is when we helped Parsippany beat Capitol City. It was the last question and Capitol City was down 10. We grabbed the last finish the verse question to give them their first loss. We were proud of ourselves.

Finally, Tuesday ended. We had no losses; Old Paths, Capitol City, and Parsippany all had one. The first quiz on Thursday was between us, Old Paths, and Parsippany. We got off to a great start and won the quiz. Parsippany, probably the weakest of the remaining teams, was eliminated. The next quiz, Old Paths got a big lead and we were left fighting it out with Capitol City. It went to a tie breaker question. I jumped and missed. We thought we were done, but Capitol City came off their lights during the question causing Dr. Knapp to give them error. Mr. Clutch, Dusty Logan got the next tie breaker question to put us in the final two.

So it came down to Athens vs. Old Paths—-the two worst two-team quizzing teams in the entire world. They took the early lead in the first quiz and ran away with it towards the end. We were all having visions of choking again. The next quiz, we took the early lead and at question 15 only needed one more in order to win the national championship. Well, we decided to make it more interesting (or at least it turned out to be more interesting). Old Paths got the rest of the questions up to question 20. I think we were still up 10 but that isn’t worth that much. Tim Keenan was the first one up on the question. He missed. We got the rebound on a surprisingly hard question considering it was from John 3:16. We got it right. Four of us jumped up and started celebrating. Tex just sat there. We asked him what he was doing. He said, “Wait, they have a good challenge on this one.” Anyway, I guess you would have had to be there but we still give him a hard time about that.

So that’s the story of Athens Christian School’s 2003 National Championship.

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