A correct answer in a sudden death tiebreaker gave Pahranagat Valley second place in the 2017 1A Academic Olympics at Eureka High School on Nov. 20.
Pahranagat Valley High School teacher and team coach Eric Hansen said the kids had qualified for the state meet by winning the Southern Regional the week before.
“At state,” Hansen said, “our team consisted of Brent Thatcher, Lacie Steele, John Hansen, Cody Hatch, Tad Twitchell, Ammon Rasmussen, and our captain, Culen Highbe.”
He explained there are 10 teams at the state meet. In the morning session, there are four 30-minute rounds. The moderator verbally asks a question from all types of categories, some from science, some from mathematics, history, literature, English grammar, geography, and so forth.
“You never know what you are going to get, so there is always an element of luck there. You might get a round where your kids are good at, or a round where they aren’t so good.”
Unlike the TV game show Jeopardy, every team gets to answer. Each team member has a small white marker board to write their answer. The team captain then decides which is the best answer either by displaying his own written answer, or pointing to one of his team members.
“Usually they are just one or two word answers or the solution to an equation.”
Each team has 20 seconds to answer before a bell goes off and the moderator reads the answer. If the team answers correctly, the team gets a point. If it answer incorrectly, or not at all, no point is awarded.
Hansen said, “If team members might disagree on their written answers, the team captain has to decide which answer to show, but you only have 20 seconds in which to do all this.”
He said that at the end of the four rounds the points are totaled and the bottom two teams are eliminated. The remaining teams advance to the next two rounds round after a lunch break.
Pahranagat advanced to the second round and did well in that round to advance to the final three teams, although it was a close match, Hansen said, with PVHS edging out Sierra Lutheran by half a point. The other finalists were Whittell and Excel Christian from Reno.
Pahranagat had been in the final three set last year and taken third place. “This year,” Hansen said, “when the points were totaled at the end, Whittell was the winner, but we were tied with Excel Christian.”
A one-question tiebreaker was needed.
Highbe said the question was, ‘What level of jury would hear a 5th Amendment (against self-incrimination) case? The Grand Jury.’
“We answered correctly and Excel did not,” and PVHS got the runner-up spot.
Hansen has been coaching the Academic Olympics since 2001.
“We have won the state title three times, the last one being in 2013. The team had a really good attitude at the Olympics, friendly to be around. Even other coaches told me how they appreciated the way our team conducted themselves.”