The thrill of competing, the excitement of being with friends, the desire to master random sets of facts – all of these things were part of the rationale that convinced a bunch of middle school students at Tashkent International School to join the first-ever TIS Middle School Knowledge Bowl after-school activity in fall 2014.
Little did any of them know or even dare to dream, just a few months later, in April 2015, they would be returning to Tashkent the proud champions of the 2014-2015 Middle School CEESA Knowledge Bowl in Moscow, Russia. The group of eight 6th graders and their coaches, Doug DeWitt and Seth Hendrickson, left for Moscow on Thursday, April 23 and returned early Monday, April 27. Between those two dates, something incredible happened.
On Saturday the competitions began and things did not look good for the TIS A team. In this Round Robin, double elimination tournament, a quick loss for the A team put them at a sudden disadvantage and earned them a solid spot in the losers bracket. The TIS B and C teams fared a bit better.
“The kids were nervous,” Doug explained. Even in the early testing period, they experienced shaking hands and sick stomachs. But at some point things changed. With nothing left to lose, the A team went about its business of answering questions and winning games.
“As soon as they won that first game, I saw them exhale and think ‘OK, we need to win some games,’” said Seth.
In the end, the A team needed to win six straight games to get into the final round, including two games against the undefeated champions. And before they knew it, the A team was suddenly in the A league.
The final game went back and forth, question to question, until finally the two teams were tied. One last question, and Jung-Ki from TIS buzzed in first. “At the last question, I was so scared when I answered,” said Jung-Ki. “And then the judge said ‘That’s correct,’ and I was so excited!”
For a group of young middle schoolers who had never competed in a Knowledge Bowl before, who started their time in this after-school activity nervous, scared and unsure of themselves, this team of students truly showed their potential, and shocked a school. They even shocked themselves.
For Seth and Doug, this particular Knowledge Bowl has another special meaning. When Seth was in middle school and high school as an international-school student, Doug was his Knowledge Bowl coach. While the two of them never brought home a trophy together as coach and student, they made up for it this year as colleagues.
“Doug and I were really excited,” Seth said. “The kids were great. They had great sportsmanship and a great sense of humor. They were really exemplary for our school. I’m proud of them.”
TIS was founded in 1994 and is now an International Baccalaureate World School offering all three IB programmes. The school has almost 500 students in preschool through grade 12 from 45 countries. TIS is the only school in Uzbekistan authorized to offer the International Baccalaureate programme.