By Michelle Miller
---- — The Cooperstown High School Quiz Team was crowned champions the first year it participated in WCNY’s “Double Down” quiz show. Will this year’s team have the same success?
Adviser Timothy Iversen said the only thing he is going to reveal is that the students did better than last year when they were knocked out in the first round.
Those wanting to know how the team did will have to tune in on their televisions. Cooperstown’s first match will be aired at 6 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 6. The show is broadcast on Sundays on WCNY channel 24.1 and repeats are shown at 8:30 p.m. Mondays on WCNY channel 24.3.
This marked the eighth season of the fast-paced academic quiz show where 32 schools compete to win the blueRock Energy Scholastic Award trophy. WCNY on-air host Bill Barker moderated each session with questions in the categories of English language, arts and literature, history and geography, math, science arts, sports and 2012.
Three students compete at a time, and unlike most of the competitions CCS participates in, students do not use buzzers to chime in on questions, according to Iversen. He said players cannot be rotated during a match, but because schools typically compete twice in a day, he likes to play three students during the first match and a different three the next match.
During the course of the year, Iversen said he will probably have 20 or more students competing and was glad to have a competition with a different style format so that he could get one of his sophomores some playing time.
Iversen brought five of his quiz team members to the Syracuse competition. They included captain Jacob Miller, Patrick Dewey, Thomas Franck, Erik Mebust and Hope Dohner.
Dewey was the only CCS player who isn’t a senior.
“Patrick has some pretty substantial health challenges and is confined to a motorized wheelchair, and what I am really glad for is that he was able to compete in this contest,” Iversen said. “‘Double Down’ does not rely on buzzer speed. The questions go to individuals and then teams in the second round. The buzzer thing is a difficult thing for us to work around with Patrick, so it was really great that he could compete in this. And he did really well.”
Another big difference between the “Double Down” competition and others that CCS participates in is that it is televised, Iversen said.
“It is kind of fun for me to see how students respond when they get on camera,” he said. “Sometimes they get pretty nervous. Some of them anyway.”
For example, Iversen revealed that one of the players missed a first-round question that he would not have otherwise missed if he was not on camera.
Students eventually get past the butterflies from being on camera, according to Iversen.
Iversen added that having no buzzer can be a good or a bad thing.
“Most of our preparations for competitions we go to are buzzer-based. We have to think very differently for this game,” he said.
There is a whole possibility to double points at the end like on Jeopardy that can be a real challenge, according to Iversen.
“You have to have different strategies in games that are constructed differently,” he said.
Members of the quiz team meet every Monday for 45 minutes to an hour before school. Different tactics are used from week-to-week to prepare for competitions, Iversen said. He said sometimes they pull out the buzzers and play one another, other times they get in a line and answer questions and move right or left based on if the question is answered correctly or not or once in a while he just asks students individual questions.
The “Double Down” competition returned to a single elimination format this year. The seventh season featured a twist in the first round: Teams still competed head-to-head, but with the goal of scoring as many points as possible. The 16 teams with the highest first-round scores advanced to the second round.
Iversen said he actually much prefers the single elimination format even though it is “a little tighter in the moment.“
“It makes the strategy much more manageable,” he explained. “When you don’t know how many points anybody else is getting, it makes you take risks where you might really be putting yourself out. That is what happened to us last year. They had a pretty good score, but decided to go for the gold and tried to double it by betting everything. The missed the question and lost it all and that was it. We were out of the tournament. “
Iversen said he is looking at three other competitions for his quiz team members to participate in this year. They include the Brain Busters in Ithaca on Dec. 8, The Catskill Academic Challenge in Oneonta on Jan. 8 and the Tompkins-Cortland Community College High School Challenge at TC3 on a date to be announced.
The second-year adviser said he plans to bring two or three teams to each competition so more students will get a chance to compete.
“We have a way larger group this year than we have had in the past,” he said. “It is good because I have some very good seniors, but I also have some really good young players. That is nice. It is nice to have some young people kind of nipping at the seniors’ heels.”
The goal, according to Iversen, is to do well enough in the three tournaments to qualify for the national championships. CCS sent a team to Washington D.C. last year and Iversen said he would like to bring two teams this year. National competitions are held in D.C., New Orleans and Chicago — all on different dates.