Soda replaced Gatorade, and the shuffling of thoughts in teenage minds created melodies as strong as a jazz band’s trumpet section.

The only halftime stretching came in the stomachs of participants as they prepared for the third round with Subway sandwiches.

The area’s first Knowledge Bowl competition of the year kicked off another season of mental wrestling at Stanfield Middle School on Wednesday night, with more than three dozen students from Stanfield, Hermiston, Echo, Umatilla, Heppner and Helix participating.

In the first of five scheduled Wednesday evening meetings, the team from Helix pulled ahead and claimed victory following a back-and-forth duel with Stanfield in the championship.

Students from Hermiston, the third squad in the final round, trailed by a handful of points but answered the final question correctly.

Katie Johnson, bowl organizer and social studies instructor in Stanfield, added five more chances for points, and the academic all-stars from Helix secured a two-point win.

Johnson, who is in her fourth year of organizing the competitions for her school, said John Cox from the Echo School District was instrumental in starting the bowls in northeastern Oregon.

She said the events — set up as simple three-team, three-round, buzz-in quiz competitions — have risen in popularity in her native state of Washington in recent years.

Johnson and Cox, also a Washingtonian transfer, are trying to spread the academic meets in their adopted state.

During the dinner break, which came between the second and third rounds Wednesday, opinions split on the contents of questions asked up to that point.

Skylar Gettmann, a sophomore at Hermiston High School, said his team had fared well against a large number of math and science questions.

Danny Angel and Brandon Campana, two seniors from Stanfield, said geography was popular in the first two rounds for their team, which didn’t include two members because of illness.

Angel and Campana said before round three despite the loss of two strong teammates, the Tigers were still in good shape, and their trip to the championship round proved them correct.

The focus of questions during Wednesday’s rounds ranged from figuring correct arcs of circles to filling in quotes from Henry David Thoreau.

John Malgesini, a civics and psychology teacher from Umatilla, said the varied topics of the Knowledge Bowl give students a chance to gain some recognition for the information they take in from 13 years of education.

Melody Bustillos, a counselor at Hermiston High School, said the bowl provides an activity for students outside sports, music and drama.

“There’s a lot of clubs,” she said, “but none that are so academic in nature.”

Her colleague Roger Berger, who teaches business classes in Hermiston, said everything has become more comfortable in his second year of helping with Knowledge Bowl.

He also expressed his appreciation for the relatively local reach of the competitions that keep students — and instructors — close to home.

The next four Knowledge Bowl meets are tentatively scheduled for Dec. 8 in Umatilla, Jan. 12 in Hermiston, Jan. 26 in Heppner and Feb. 9 in Echo.

All events will take place on Wednesdays from 4 to about 7 p.m.


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