Holy Family’s Quest for Knowledge Bowl Success Featured Image.

Holy Family’s Quest for Knowledge Bowl Success

The Long Road to the State Knowledge Bowl

Like athletes who use the preseason to stretch their abilities, fine-tune skills and develop a strategy to focus on a big goal, this year’s Holy Family Catholic High School Knowledge Bowl teams were no different during the off-season.

Want to give it a try? Here are a few warm-up questions:

Question 1: All atoms of any given element have the same number of what subatomic particles?


Question 2: Name the best-known opera by the Russian composer Rimsky-Korsakov, the title of which is based on a character from “The Arabian Nights.”

That’s just a small sample of questions students on the Holy Family Knowledge Bowl team encounter as they planned and prepared for competition. (Ready to throw in the towel? Not so fast. Test your knowledge at the end!)

Before this year’s season, the Knowledge Bowl team, led by science teacher Jim Walker, was hard at work building its knowledge base and practicing “buzzer rounds” as a means to launch the team into April’s Minnesota State Knowledge Bowl Meet. Thirty-three students are on this year’s roster: 13 seniors, 12 juniors, five sophomores and three freshmen. Participants are broken into four- to five-member teams.

Holy Family team, “Thought Patrol,” earned their way to a second placer finish in the regional competition earning a trip to the State Tournament.

“Every year, the goal of our team is to make it to state, and this year was no different,” says senior Mitchell Jans, whose team is only the second in school history to qualify for the Minnesota State Knowledge Bowl Meet. “The difference this year was not the goal. It was the determination that the goal was reasonably attainable.”

Jans and four other team members—seniors Thomas Farrell, Walter Treat and Leo Pinamonti and new addition sophomore Lucy Treat—are one of 48 teams that qualified for the state Knowledge Bowl Meet April 12-13 at Cragun’s Resort in Brainerd. Advancing to the final round, the team finished 5th at the Minnesota State Knowledge Bowl Meet.

To put that accomplishment into perspective:

  • More than 800 teams compete statewide in Knowledge Bowl events.
  • Nearly 300 school districts from across Minnesota are represented.
  • Only 48 teams qualify for the Minnesota State Knowledge Bowl Meet!

7 Reasons for Holy Family Knowledge Bowl Success

What’s the secret to this year’s success? And what can teams that follow learn?

“We did a lot more preparation this year than ever before,” Farrell explains. “This team took time to make notecards, study previous years’ questions and zero in on topics we weren’t familiar with.”

Besides dedication and focus, here are some other tangible and intangible factors that play into their success:

  1. Summer Buzzers. “During the summer, our team practiced Knowledge Bowl questions, and this helped us get a jump-start on the season,” Jans says. “The best preparation we did was buzzer practices, which are practice rounds. Having those buzzer practices is vital to our team, and we owe a great deal of gratitude to the other Knowledge Bowl participants because without them, we would not have enough practice to gain the ‘buzzing’ skills.”
  2. The Daily 10. Walker knows that frequent quizzing has its rewards, so he puts all of his students to the test. “The kids answer a daily quiz (10 questions), starting on the first day of school,” Walker says. While Knowledge Bowl practices start the first week of November, early quizzing builds confidence and excitement.

    Teams compete against each other in weekly “buzzer rounds” to prepare for the upcoming meets.
  3. Team chemistry. “We’ve had good teams that could have gone to state, but the chemistry just wasn’t really there,” Farrell says. Walker explains it this way: “Many team participants develop individual strengths. Part of the fun is finding a group of kids who trust each other enough to buzz in on a question when they know a teammate has the knowledge to answer.”
  4. Experience. “All of us understand each other and have competed together for years,” Jans says. “I feel as if this season is the one to leave it all on the table and hold nothing back. In years past, there was always next year and well, this is our senior year—the year of lasts.”
  5. Postseason seasoned. If the pressure of postseason competition affects performance, Walker thinks this year’s group can shake that off. “Our highest finishing team last year missed qualifying for state by one tough round,” he says. “I think that motivated the team this year. This particular group of seniors has always been a strong group—they enjoy the meets and are pretty competitive, which helps too.”
  6. Students v. Teachers. Whether they admit it or not, a few brave Holy Family teachers did their part as well. “Our team practiced against (five) HF teachers,” Mitchell shares. “Overall, the practice went well—and we beat the teachers by a fair margin.” Score one for the team!
  7. Bragging Rights. This year’s team is only the second to qualify for the State Knowledge Bowl. “The last time was in 2010, and the team (with its previous coach, Tom Walker) finished fourth,” Walker says. “That gives us something to shoot for.”

No matter how the team does at the Minnesota Knowledge Bowl Meet, it is fair to say this year’s team has already earned its place among the best of the best.

Which leads to one last question:

Question: What coach says, “I am inspired by their tenacity and confidence. Part of doing well is knowing that you are not going to give up, and that winning is possible.”
Coach Jim Walker, Holy Family Knowledge Bowl Team

5 Questions to Test Your Knowledge

Question 1: What enterprise laid the foundation for the wealth of the Medici family?

Question 2: In 2016, archaeologists discovered a massive platform with columns and a gigantic staircase buried in the sands of Petra in what country?

Question 3: George Washington’s surprise attack and victory at what New Jersey town in December 1776 increased morale and provided enough of a recruiting boost to keep his army from disbanding?

Question 4: What does the “E” stand for in OPEC?

Question 5: What part of the body are these structures located? Vomer, ethmoid bone, sphenoid bone, lachrymal bone, palatine bone and zygomatic bone

Questions are samples from a recent Knowledge Bowl competition.*