After weeks of brain training, college students from across the country gathered Saturday for the 2018 National Academic Quiz Tournaments’ Intercollegiate Championship Tournament finals, answering quiz questions on topics ranging from animal respiratory systems to Ariana Grande songs.
At the The Hyatt Regency O’Hare, 36 Division I teams and 32 Division II teams slowly worked their way to the finals in a bracket similar to the NCAA’s March Madness.
“A lot of people think we’re total nerds, but we’re just curious,” Northwestern University graduate student Adam Silverman said. “We may not be the smartest in our classes, or may not get the best grades, but we have fun.”
The bowl was expanded to its current size this year thanks to a sponsorship with LetterOne, which allowed the National Academic Quiz Tournament to “expand, provide lunch and do more to reward excellence,” said Robert Hentzel, president of the quiz tournament, and a former quiz bowl player himself.
“We hope they take away a real common, canon of knowledge that helps them relate to people more and see the things they share and create similarities,” Hentzel said. “Hopefully they get exposure to things beyond what they’re learning in school, and something catches their fancy.”
The defending national champions were University of California-Berkeley and the University of Oklahoma at Norman for Division I undergraduate and Division II, respectively, with the University of Michigan for Division I overall.
Northwestern and the University of Chicago were favored to do some damage at Saturday’s championship game. The Hyde Park university has the most titles with 11, and was looking to reestablish itself in the quiz bowl arena after a recent drought.
John Lawrence, a fifth-year grad student who is one of the U. of C.’s captains, said Saturday afternoon that the school has four teams with four students each, split evenly between the Division I and Division II. The squad has hit the books — and flashcards — in recent days as they look to stave off a loss.
“We had a string of big championships then didn’t win a single one between 2010 and 2015, a time we call the Dark Ages,” said, one of U. of C.’s captains. “We won in 2016, but lost in 2017. We want to stage a renaissance and get back on track.”
Early Saturday evening, that looked to be the case, with the school’s C team expected to win its final against Harvard’s B team for the Division II title.
But the A team was third overall for Division I. Yale took the first place title and Berkeley took third.