Flannel-toting quiz team carries the day


Seniors Layla Siraj, Maya Midzik, Paula Kates and Ziv Scully, all dressed in flannel, walked into the WGBH High School Quiz Show studio, which was filled with orange and blue lights and draped with white curtains. Following the four BHS contestants were senior Arjun Mahadevan, the alternate player; and the coaches of the team, science teacher Tyler Wooley-Brown and Social Studies Curriculum Coordinator Gary Shiffman.

The four main players shook hands with their four opponents from Seekonk High School, and with the audience’s choreographed cheers, all eight participants stood behind the table labeled with their school’s name.

“The fact that there was the choreographed audience applause and the very real buzzing game going on at the same time was pretty striking,” said Scully.

Although early in the morning, the participants began eagerly, shouting out answers as soon as the first problem was asked. Both Brookline and Seekonk participants buzzed in and casted their answers before the full questions were even announced.

“Because we’ve trained with the Jeopardy questions, I think we have the general idea of what the questions are going to be like,” Siraj said.

Throughout the four rounds of competition, the four Brookline seniors continuously made eye contacts to collectively answer questions by sharing their knowledge in different fields.

“Each of us know more about a certain subject, but you could also just know random things. We also work together really well, and we all are not in our specific fields,” said Siraj.

Wooley-Brown, who coached the team, suggested that the members had plausible diversity of knowledge.

“A good team has good spread,” Wooley-Brown said.

Despite the air of tension in the studio, Siraj said she didn’t feel too overwhelmed or nervous. For Scully, however, being taped for a television show was quite a nerve-racking experience.

“It was a little weird to think about the fact that it would be on TV,” said Scully. “So I didn’t think about it as much as possible, although that was difficult to do when the person stepped out from the side and put makeup on me every other cut.”

In the end, Brookline defeated Seekonk by a score of 495 to 250. The competition was aired on television on Feb. 12.

To succeed in the competition, Wooley-Brown and Shiffman picked the five members of the team in the beginning of October, 2011 and practiced every Wednesday morning during Z block.

“This was the first year that we made a concerted effort to practice ahead of time,” Wooley-Brown said.

Although the team members don’t learn any new information, the practices are crucial for getting used to the format of the competition.

Siraj said, “We can’t really practice knowing things, but we can practice buzzing in, being recognized before you speak, when to guess and when not to, and other strategies.”

Wooley-Brown agreed about the importance of practicing.

“As teachers, we train students to not try to answer questions until we are done talking, and it’s actually a very hard thing to break out of,” Wooley-Brown said. “It’s pretty difficult to guess where the question is going and to be the first person to guess when you are not used to it.”

To gain the opportunity to be taped at the WGBH studio, the team had to participate in a qualifying round, which is called Super Sunday. According to Scully, on Super Sunday, each team sees how well they can do on answering questions, and at the end, they add up the scores that each team earns to send top 16 schools to be taped and be aired on WGBH.

Brookline received the highest score on Super Sunday.

Looking forward to achieving the state champion title, Wooley-Brown hopes that the school continues to create a successful team every year. He suggested that more people’s interest and participation would make the school’s team much stronger.

“My plan is to build a quiz team,” said Wooley-Brown. “A crew of people that like quizzing, from which we take four for this competition and eight for another.”

Amy Park can be contacted at [email protected]