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.*


Alumni Spotlight: Catching Up with Rollie Lacy

Rollie Lacy: He’s in his first full season as a professional baseball player with the Chicago Cubs organization. We asked fellow Holy Family grad and sports writer Alex Smith 10 to catch up with Rollie and get the scoop on life in the Minor Leagues.

“Throwing on a high-school field—just for the love of the game, not really knowing that it would take me anywhere—to professional baseball is crazy.” —Rollie Lacy, 2013 Holy Family graduate

Alumni Profile: Rollie Lacy

Graduated: 2013

Elementary/Middle Schools: Shirley Hills Primary School, Mound (first and second grades); Our Lady of the Lake Catholic School, Mound (third to eighth grades)

University Attended: Creighton University, Omaha

Degree: Bachelor’s Degree in Finance/Entrepreneurship

Holy Family Activities:

  • Baseball
  • Football
  • Hockey
  • Lasallian Youth


ALEX: How is Arizona?


AZL Cubs relief pitcher Rollie Lacy (51) delivers a pitch to the plate against the AZL Mariners on August 4, 2017 at Sloan Park in Mesa, Arizona. AZL Cubs defeated the AZL Mariners 5-3. (Zachary Lucy/Four Seam Images)

It’s been great. It’s an exciting time. I’ve always heard about spring training, whether it be through TV or the movies. It’s fun to see all the Big Leaguers and the guys you’ve looked up to for a long time. It’s fun, because it shows you kind of belong a little bit. It’s a new level of competition that makes you want to work even harder.

ALEX: Have you been…not “starstruck,” but excited about running into certain players since you were drafted last year?

ROLLIE: There’s Major League guys all the time who are down on rehab assignments and things like that. Every once in a while, guys like Javy Báez and (three-time MLB All-Star Anthony) Rizzo and (National League MVP Kris) Bryant will come down to get swings in lower-league games. So, it’s pretty cool to see them. And then some of the pitchers are role models, like (four-time All-Star) Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks. It’s a pretty open locker room and weight room, and they’re really nice guys. It’s a really good environment down here.

ALEX: So, this is a little bit of a dream scenario?

ROLLIE: It’s one of those places you always pictured going to. It’s an opening to professional baseball. I had some time last year after the draft, but this is the real welcome to the organization. It’s a time that really allows you to feel like you fit in, and you’re finally a part of the team.

ALEX: People probably forget that you walked on at Creighton. Did you have any other options, as far as baseball was concerned?

ROLLIE: I actually talked with some schools out East, like Holy Cross and schools in Carolina. I talked with the University of Minnesota about playing there. But, you know, baseball wasn’t really a fixture in my mind in terms of the future. I kind of just liked playing in high school. I liked all sports, really, so it wasn’t something that came to be “my thing” until my time at Creighton. But I chose Creighton because of the academics, and it was just far enough away that I wouldn’t be coming home all the time. It was a good chance to grow up, and baseball kind of took over my life. (Click HERE to see a recap of Lacy’s career at Creighton University)

ALEX: Did Creighton reach out to you? Or vice versa?

ROLLIE: Yeah. Their coach had seen me in some camps and had seen my stats from high school. I was a really late addition; there wasn’t a scholarship available. So they just said that I had to wait it out until the next year.

I wouldn’t say I was heavily recruited. I wasn’t very proactive in the recruiting process as a high school junior and senior. I had a belief that if you were good enough, teams would find you. Now, after (getting more familiar with) the recruiting process over the last 6 years, I know that unless you’re a high (MLB) draft pick out of high school, you’ve got to be proactive about the schools you want to play at. That was my mistake. But it ended up being a great time.

ALEX: Yeah, I’d say it worked out pretty well. That was only half a decade ago, and now you’re hanging out with Yu Darvish. Has this journey been a whirlwind since Holy Family?

ROLLIE: Actually, funny story. Facebook does that “share your memories” thing. And 6 years ago, Connor Riddle and I were driving to a high-school (baseball) practice. It just kind of rung a bell in my head that it’s been that long since Holy Family, which is really crazy. But throwing on a high-school field—just for the love of the game, not really knowing that it would take me anywhere—to professional baseball is crazy. College baseball was crazy in itself. It’s a little bit surreal. I’m just going with the flow here.

2017 Preseason All-BIG EAST
2016 All-BIG EAST First Team
2015 Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American
2015 All-BIG EAST First Team
Photo provided by Claudia and Tim Lacy

ALEX: What sticks out about your time at Holy Family?

ROLLIE: My favorite thing about Holy Family has to be the culture and the closeness of the community. Public schools have that, too, but the group of friends I have (from Holy Family) I still talk to almost all of them at least once a week, if not every day. They’re always asking me how I’m doing, and I’m excited to see how they’re doing. If anything, that’s probably the most important thing I’ve taken from school, is just friends. Lifelong friends.

ALEX: Is there anyone from that community who really made an impact on you?

ROLLIE: Yeah, a lot of great teachers. Coach (Bryan) DeLorenzo obviously was a huge part of my time there, just as a coach. He had to make the decision to put me on the field, and if I wasn’t on the field, all of these things don’t happen. Coach (Pat) Hallahan was there my freshman year. He instilled some confidence in me early; told me that I had a good arm and I had to work at it and I couldn’t just go out there every day and throw. I had to do some stuff off the field as well.

Mr. (John) Dols was always very helpful for me. I wouldn’t say I was the most well-behaved student in high school. I definitely had some growing up to do. But he showed me some good things along the way. I don’t think I had a bad experience with any staff there. Credit to them.

ALEX: Do you have a favorite memory from your time at Holy Family?

2012 MSHSL State Class A Champions

ROLLIE: The state championship my junior year in baseball. That was a surreal experience. Being at Target Field, a professional stadium. With all the guys. Of course, we had a really good team that year. Going up through state. That was a really fun time.

ALEX: When the MLB draft was approaching last summer, did you have a good idea of where you were going to be picked? What were you hearing?

ROLLIE: I was almost 100 percent sure that I was going (to be drafted). But there’s always that fear in the back of your head that you weren’t going to be picked. I was actually talking to four or five teams to get a deal done in the fourth through eighth rounds, pretty early on. But the draft was pretty hectic, and they ended up saying I could sign for more money late—in the 11th round—instead of being a money-saving pick early on. It ended up working out really well. I’m glad I’m with the Cubs—a great organization. When I was drafted, I was on the golf course with my family. It’s a great memory to have.

ALEX: And who was there with you, exactly?

ROLLIE: My dad, brother and one of my good friends from college. But 5 seconds after it happened— and I didn’t even know about it (the pick) before a lot of people did—my phone just shut down. I couldn’t open it. There were a lot of people to talk to, and it was really fun to have all of those people pulling for me and happy for me.

ALEX: Enough people to shut your phone down, huh?

ROLLIE: I got all these calls and notifications. The one call that came through at the time that I could answer was the head executive of Chicago asking me if I wanted to be a Cub, and welcome to the organization. That was pretty funny. But I was fielding calls and texts for a long time after that. It was tough to finish the round (of golf). I actually had to shut my phone off for the back nine.

ALEX: You mentioned a lot of people reached out to you after the draft. Were there any “surprising” people from Holy Family that congratulated you?

ROLLIE: Absolutely. It’s more of a rag on myself for not staying in contact with a lot of these people. There’s people that were part of my life and helped me in ways that were hard to see at times. I’ve gotten thank-yous from people who had no business needing to say thank you. They just went out of their way to be kind and supportive. That’s a tribute to how good the people are at Holy Family. There’s always people reaching out and congratulating me, even this late after the draft, and giving support. It’s definitely a humbling experience having those people contact you.

ALEX: Even when you were pitching well in high school, did it ever cross your mind that you might be a draft pick one day?

ROLLIE: Personally, no. I didn’t think it was something that was that great of a chance. But Kasey Ralston (’12) my junior year, he was a pretty big prospect, going to Indiana. We hoped he was going to be drafted. And my dad told me, just keep working out and maybe one day you’ll be seeing that, too. I remember laughing and going, “Yeah, I don’t think so.” And then it ended up happening. I guess your parents always think the best about you, but I was never thinking about being a professional baseball player until the later years of college. Not until then.

ALEX: I’ve been reading that, besides the signing bonus, Minor League players make next to nothing on a weekly basis. What’s the “job” like? How do you deal with those infamous bus trips?

Lacy’s 2017 Official Baseball Card

ROLLIE: The pay is definitely tough. But they make it up in your bonus. They try to make it what you would’ve gotten in your years of work out of college. And we don’t really have any living expenses or food expenses, per se. So that’s nice.

Being away from friends and family is definitely tough. My girlfriend works in North Carolina, and we talk all the time. Fortunately, in today’s day and age, it’s pretty easy to talk and communicate with people. But it is tough to get my friends together and go on trips and stuff. I’m pretty booked from about March 1 until the end of September. There is some sacrifice, but it’s worth it in the end if you make it to the top.

ALEX: Do you have any time to be a tourist? Or is it go, go, go?

ROLLIE: It’s go, go, go. I think the assumption is that the team is always together, 24/7. It’s more like a desk job, but you’re playing baseball. We have our schedule, and we have our free time. All the towns have their own things to offer, and we definitely have our share of free time, depending on if you want to use that to rest, which is probably what about 90, 95 percent of the guys do.

But I’m a big adventure guy. So I’m excited for the flights and bus trips and seeing different parts of the country. Sure, it can be a grind sometimes. I don’t really sit on buses too well. Nor do the other guys. But it’s something where you roll with the punches on that. And it’s something you’ll look back on in 15 years and wish you could still be doing. So I’m trying to have as much fun as I can.

UPDATE January 2019:

Tampa Bay Rays Scouting Report: Rollie Lacy

Meet the Writer. Alex Smith is currently working as a full-time journalist for Cox Media Group in Nashville, Tennessee. His first book, SEC Football’s Greatest Games, will be available from Rowman & Littlefield in September. Alex is married to fellow Holy Family alum Bridget Smith, née Stone (’10).