Chimacum’s Knowledge Bowl team grows, perseveres

By Rose Peirce
Posted 3/27/24

Chimacum High School’s Knowledge Bowl team picked up several new recruits and remained consistently competitive against larger schools throughout the season, but missed qualifying for state …

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Chimacum’s Knowledge Bowl team grows, perseveres


Chimacum High School’s Knowledge Bowl team picked up several new recruits and remained consistently competitive against larger schools throughout the season, but missed qualifying for state last month.

“Our advanced math teacher, Joanne Schmitt, coached the Knowledge Bowl Cowboys for many years, and routinely took teams to the state playoffs,” said Brian MacKenzie, who teaches history, civics, and journalism at CHS. He said he helped as assistant coach the last couple years, and Schmitt asked him to take over as head coach last fall. 

Knowledge Bowl teams consist of four to six students, and with only two returning players — seniors Reid Martin and Paige Govia — Chimacum needed reinforcements.

“Recruiting isn’t easy,” MacKenzie explained. “At big schools, students specialize. You have sports kids and band kids and robotics kids. But at small schools, it’s the same students doing everything, so everyone’s busy. Reid and Paige play in the band and do sports and ASB, and she’s Rhody royalty. The kids we tried to recruit are just as busy, but we got it done. We started with two and wound up with seven regulars — almost enough to field two teams.”

In Knowledge Bowl, students compete against teams from other schools to answer questions about grammar, literature, math, science, history, current events, the arts and popular culture.

“Because the questions are so diverse, you need to build a team of students with complementary skills,” MacKenzie said. “We had everything covered with our returning players and early recruits, except we needed someone who could solve tough math problems fast. Fortunately, we were able to recruit John Nuchia to fill that role.”

When Knowledge Bowl teams from across the Olympic Peninsula battled at Fort Worden on Dec. 14 and Jan. 18, the Cowboys placed fifth among 1A teams. With an enrollment of just 200 students, Chimacum is actually a 2B school. As the only 2B school in the region, CHS must play up at the 1A level against foes like Port Townsend, which has twice as many students, and Klahowya, which has three times as many.

The regular season finale on Feb. 28 — also at Fort Worden — determined which two 1A teams would advance to state competition.

Chimacum stumbled early with a middling performance in the opening written round, where each team works together to answer a battery of difficult multiple choice questions. 

Next, teams participate in four oral rounds, where teams grouped three to a room compete to buzz in and earn points by answering questions in a quiz show format.

Written round scores determined team seeding for the first oral round, which pitted the Cowboys against two teams with similarly lackluster written round scores. Led by Martin, their team captain and most valuable player, Chimacum locked in and dominated the first oral round, racking up 15 points against five points for Evergreen Lutheran 2 and just one point for Port Townsend 6.

“We demolished them,” said Nuchia.

That strong performance boosted the Cowboys into higher tiers for the last three oral rounds. In the second and third rounds, CHS split points fairly evenly with Klahowya 3 and Evergreen Lutheran 1.

Chimacum controlled its own destiny entering the fourth and final oral round against Port Townsend 3 and — for the third consecutive round — Klahowya 3. This time, though, Klahowya 3 broke from the pack, scored a decisive win, and qualified for state as the second-place 1A team, behind first-place Port Townsend 1.

“The start was grim,” said junior Angelise Pratt. “The end was grimmer. The loss was unfortunate. I had heaps of fun. I wish I had studied and practiced harder.”

“Missing state again hurts,” said MacKenzie, “but we learned a lot. It’s sad to lose Paige and Reid to graduation, but our five new recruits are fantastic. They’re all juniors, so we’ll start next year stronger than we began this one. The returning players are so hard-core we’re continuing to practice through the spring to get ready for next year. And we’ll recruit more underclassmen to keep it going.”