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Varsity Hi-Q team stands undefeated at mid-season

JV Hi-Q team members from left: Videll Williams, Tommy Allbright, Megan Anderson and Forrest ElledgeDo you know the difference between a recession and a depression ... the tenants of spherical geometry ... the region of Russia that lies within the Arctic Circle ... or the various battles of the Korean War?

There’s a small group of Baker High students whose wealth of knowledge extends to all of the above and much more.

Meet the Wildcat Hi-Q teams.

Eleven players in all — six upperclassmen on the varsity squad and five sophomores and freshmen on the junior varsity team — have been matching wits with academic teams from Bradford, Union and Columbia counties in recent weeks.

See them in action here.

The varsity team of Dillon Burnsed, Zachory Spencer, Allejandro Guerra, Reagan McKendree, Sarah Harrell and Chelsea Moore have gone undefeated in their first three contests, winning two matches by overwhelming margins.

To compete, Hi-Q teams choose four players to participate in a quiz show-like contest in which a moderator asks a “toss up” question and the first team to buzz in with the correct answer gains five points and a chance to answer a bonus question for 10 more points.

Alternate players may be substituted between the three rounds of questioning that make up a match.

The questions cover math, literature, science, current events, geography, history and government, among other subject areas.

“It’s a lot of classic information — the basic facts that everyone should come out of high school knowing,” said the Hi-Q team’s long-time coach Cathy Hooper, who directs the gifted studies program at the high school.

The JV Hi-Q team’s Megan Anderson has been in the gifted program throughout her schooling and said its prepared her well for the competitions.

“All we do pretty much is general knowledge and trivia type questions,” said the sophomore, now in her second year with the team. “I’m quite fond of doing that, so that’s pretty much why I started and why I enjoy it.”

Students on the Hi-Qs are typically stronger in certain subject areas as opposed to others. Ms. Anderson, for instance, is well versed in math and science but said she struggles with the Constitution.

Ms. Hooper said the varsity team’s strength is the wide breath of understanding the teammates possess as a unit. She believes it gives them an advantage against most opponents.

“They’ve got the best coverage we’ve ever seen,” she said. “They split that up pretty well and work together as a team.”

While teamwork is essential to arriving at the correct answer to double-point bonus questions, buzzing in quickly and thinking fast are the keys to gaining that opportunity.

Just as student athletes practice to improve their physical speed and reflexes, the Hi-Q teams meet twice weekly to sharpen similar, but cerebral, skills of listening, thinking and responding swiftly.

The JV team has three newcomers this year — freshmen Videll Williams, Forrest Elledge and Kaylee Murphy. Ms. Anderson and Tommy Allbright are returning sophomores.

Their season began October 4 with a loss to Columbia County, 291 to 175. The varsity team, however, out scored Columbia by 117 points for the win.

A week later against Union County, both teams were victorious.

Ms. Hooper said the JV players prepared for the match by trying to better anticipate where toss-up questions were going so as to buzz in sooner and gain control of bonus questions. Unlike Jeopardy, there is no penalty for wrong answers.

The practice appeared to pay off. The underclassmen hammered their opponents by 193 points, 230 to 37.

The varsity team, on the other hand, had a much closer match, eking out a narrow 15-point win.

“They won by one question,” said Ms. Hooper.

Then on October 18, the varsity players jumped on Bradford County early and often, posting 182 points to Bradford’s 46.

They followed the JV team’s match, which got off to a rocky start.

Ms. Hoooper said she was distracted initially, busy arranging seating for a large group of visitors with the Bradford County team, and didn’t realize the home team benched its strongest JV player, Mr. Allbright, for the first round.

The team fell behind early and failed to make up the lost ground in later rounds. They finished with a 243-162 loss.

The Hi-Q players were on a bye this week, but will head to Columbia County on November 1. The next home match will be November 8 versus Union County. The six-match season will end November 15 at Bradford County.

Ms. Hooper said she expects her varsity team to win the district title in December and compete in regional matches with an estimated 20 to 25 other schools in Northeast Florida in January.

“I would be surprised if they don’t go onto regionals,” she said.

Among Ms. Hooper’s Hi-Q team alums are County Manager C.J. Thompson, American Enterprise Bank president Jamey Hodges, who moderates the team’s home matches, and JEA Engineer Paul Davis, among other professionals.

“Each team I’ve had was a bit different, but they are all very special to me ... I remember them all,” she said.

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