NHS Quiz Bowl team caps off successful year by competing at nationals

By Nyssa Kruse

For the Gazette

Published: 06-22-2017 10:02 AM

NORTHAMPTON — Matt Grimaldi, a graduate of Northampton High School’s class of 2017, read encyclopedias for fun as a child.

Years later, as a high school student, he put this eclectic knowledge to use as a member of the school’s Quiz Bowl team, which advanced all the way to nationals in May.

“I thought, ‘I have a relatively wide bank of useless knowledge,’” Grimaldi said. “Why not put it to the test?”

Quiz Bowl is an academic competition that pits two teams against each other to answer question on topics such as history, sports or pop culture. Teams compete at multiple tournaments each season, and, with enough success, they can advance to nationals.

Northampton’s Quiz Bowl team has been featured on this season of WGBY’s “As Schools Match Wits” and is currently undefeated on the program. The team faces Mount Greylock in the championship match, which will air Saturday at 7 p.m.

NHS went 4-6 during the national tournament in May, but Grimaldi still reflected positively on the trip.

“It was pretty triumphant,” he said. “We went on a trip to Atlanta, which was basically me going with my four best friends and my favorite teacher.”

Grimaldi joined the NHS team his sophomore year because he knew one of the members. He said the other teammates, though, were older, smarter and intimidating strangers. That year, the team made it to nationals.

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“I stayed my sophomore year because I was like, ‘I can be as smart as you guys,’” Grimaldi said. “I looked up to them.”

Math teacher Mark Hanson has coached the team for five years and has been to nationals every year since he started. The year NHS didn’t make it to nationals — Grimaldi’s second year on the team — Hanson was asked to coach the all-star team for Massachusetts.

“I enjoy getting to work with kids who are good at school and like school,” he said. “Academically, they’re some of the strongest students I’ve met.”

Each member of the team focuses on different topics, though all can still answer questions on anything. Grimaldi focuses on chemistry as well as literature and pop culture.

Henry Reade, a junior during the 2016-2017 season, focuses on history.

“Sometimes you can step on each other’s toes answering questions, so we’re trying to have a division of labor in that way,” Reade said.

Grimaldi has never had Hanson as a classroom teacher, while Reade has, but both said Hanson was part of the reason they joined the team.

“He’s just been a great support,” Grimaldi said.

Three years on the team helped Grimaldi improve his memory and retention skills, but he said it also gave him leadership skills after he stepped into the role of club president in his junior year.

He organized multiple fundraisers to offset the costs of the trip to Atlanta, which ended up raising about $4,000. These funds covered almost the entire cost of the trip.

Grimaldi said the team has bonded over the years and would quiz one another when hanging out, even if they weren’t at practice. Reade said the team members’ closeness helped them succeed and made the season more enjoyable.

Grimaldi and another of the team members who went to nationals in May are graduating. Reade said the team will change next year after they depart — and he’s sad to see them go — but with three nationals competitors returning in the fall, Hanson and Reade are optimistic about the team’s future.

“We should have a strong team,” Hanson said.