WESTPORT - A multi-talented group of Westport students are hoping to take their keen sense for trivia on a trip to the land of jazz and Mardi Gras.
The Westport Central School Quiz Bowl team has qualified for the national academic championship tournament to be held at Loyola University in New Orleans, La., May 31.
The team competes in a league sponsored by the Glens Falls Post-Star, which includes more than 25 teams from schools in Essex, Warren, Washington, and Saratoga counties.
"Competing against much larger schools gives them an exposure they don't get in central Essex County," said the club's advisor, Dan McCormick.
Six matches held in Glens Falls earlier in the year determine the top eight teams to compete in a playoff-style tournament held Feb. 3. Westport earned a berth with their superior play.
Though they did not win the tournament outright, the team's performance placed them high enough to qualify for the national tournament. According to McCormick, the last time the club did so was in 1999.
When asked the secret to their success, members of the team credited their ability to have fun together, as well as the learning environment in which they've been brought up.
"Just being a Westport student, you develop all of the skills you need," said senior Alan Ware, noting the multi-disciplinary approach of school faculty. "All of my teachers just put it together in a conglomerate that makes for a wide base of knowledge."
That eclectic knowledge comes in handy for quiz bowl questions, which can range from academic subjects like math, science, and history to current events, sports and pop culture.
While some members of the team have certain strengths, said Devin Martin, they are generally well-rounded in their knowledge of various subjects. That's exemplified in their multiple interests and activities.
Four members of the team, Ware, Nathan Gay, Bo McKinley, and Kevin Russell, are also part of the MVAC-Champion Westport varsity basketball team. If that were not enough, they also compete as part of the school's award-winning Future Business Leaders of America club.
"We're really busy," said Ware, noting how participation in multiple extracurricular activities is often the norm with Westport students, "but we're also some of the happiest kids you'll meet."
Juggling all the activities can be difficult at times, the boys said, recounting one instance where they had to fit both Quiz Bowl and FBLA activities into an evening sandwiched between two nights of basketball games.
"It's a lot," said McKinley, "but I think if you just stay alert and pay attention to what's going on in your classroom and in the world, you'll do fine at quiz bowl."
In New Orleans, McCormick expects the team to get an invaluable experience meeting and competing against students from all over the country, all while visiting a city known for unique culture.
"What is there not to look forward too?" said Russell.
Still, the team has one more obstacle to face before they can make the trip: money.
Despite $1,000 in assistance from the Post Star, McCormick said the club still needs to raise at least $5,000 to pay for travel expenses. To meet that goal, they will be soliciting donations from area businesses and planning a slew of fundraisers such as a spaghetti dinner or perhaps a school dance.
Regardless of what the future holds, members of the team expressed their thanks to club advisors for facilitating yet another program that helps prepare them for college.
"Westport is a great school," said Ware, "and we're just happy to represent it."