It’s no trivial matter: Trivia team wins state championship

Underdogs make High School Quiz Show history


“This is still very close for the state championship, everybody,” Billy Costa, host of High School Quiz Show, told the school’s team, Mansfield High School’s team, and the live audience at Great Blue Hill’s studio on January 29, in an episode that aired May 20. Posters with the faces of the school’s four competitors, Bradford Kimball, Henry Kirk (both ’24), Asher Parker- Sartori, and Daniel Kyte-Zable (both ’23) bobbed in the audience, Head of School Jennifer Price cheered from inside a costume of Bucky, the school’s mascot, and a fan section from the school clapped. After winning their last three matches, the school had reached the finals.

The score was 280 to 230 for the school; a 90-second lightning round would determine the victor.

“Name the only U.S. president to have worked as an engineer on a nuclear-powered submarine,” Mr. Costa said. Bradford hit his buzzer. “Yes, Bradford.”

“Confederate General Stonewall Jackson was mortally wounded by friendly fire—” Bradford pressed the buzzer before Mr. Costa finished his question. “Yes, Bradford.”

“Croatia and Slovenia were once part of what country that dissolved? Yes, Bradford.”

After Bradford gave the correct answers to those questions—Jimmy Carter, The Battle of

Chancellorsville, and Yugoslavia, respectively—Mr. Costa asked one more question about a bear species, which neither team answered. The final buzzer sounded.

“The winning team and state champion: Buckingham Browne and Nichols with 380 points,” Mr. Costa announced.

As blue and yellow confetti rained from the ceiling, the four competitors embraced and jumped up and down.

Over the course of the tournament, the school bested Shrewsbury High School 500-260, Acton- Boxborough Regional High School 540-115, Lexington High School 385-335, and finally, Mansfield High School 380-310.

The school’s team was one of 17 that competed in the tournament. The school had landed a spot in last season’s wild card round but lost the match. This was the first time in the show’s 14-year history that a team rebounded from an early round loss their first season to win the state championship the next.

“What I’m really impressed about is the comeback this year was incredible,” Mr. Costa said. “Obviously, they went back to the drawing board and came back more determined than ever and went from losing in a wild card round to winning the state championship. What I’m saying is, BB&N made High School Quiz Show history.”

The school’s victory is an impressive feat, Mr. Costa said.

“I’m just fascinated by how poised and brilliant these kids are and how much determination and hard work that goes into not only competing on High School Quiz Show but winning,” he said. “So, congratulations to BB&N, and I can’t wait to see them again next season.”

Bradford and Leo Wang ’24 founded the school’s trivia club, which convenes once a week, in October of 2021. Trivia has always fascinated him, Bradford said.

“It gives you a deeper appreciation of the world, when you’re learning trivia,” he said. “You’re learning about literature, about works of art, understanding more about different cultures and societies, how history plays into our current lives. And on top of that, it helps you relate to other people.”

Competing on High School Quiz Show has long been a dream of his, Bradford said.

“I watched High School Quiz Show on TV a lot when I was little. I was too young to go to the tapings with my brother, but he and my dad went way back when. So, it’s really about learning new things, exploring passions, and then also fulfilling a dream I’ve had since I was a child.”

While Bradford, Henry, and alternate Aaron Rai ’24 competed on last year’s team, Daniel and Asher were new additions, as was alternate Gabe Cooper ’26. The team was selected in November, using a 50-question written test and a 45-minute practice session with a buzzer. The team qualified for High School Quiz Show after scoring among the top 15 teams trying out for the show.

After the team was assembled, it met once a week to practice by watching episodes of the show and answering questions along with them. A buzzer system, gifted to the team by Bradford’s uncle, helped them practice their buzzer timing, Bradford said.

To share the responsibilities of studying, the team designated experts for different fields based on their natural interests: Bradford for history and culture, Henry for literature, Daniel for fine arts, and Asher for math and science.

The team’s practice regimen reflected the lessons they learned from their brief stint on the show last year, Bradford said.

“We made a lot of mistakes last year,” he said. “We didn’t run enough practices. We didn’t prepare for the real thing enough. We didn’t study enough. And so, we learned from our mistakes. It was nice with some changes and modifications to see us get far.”

Despite the team’s inexperience, Bradford knew they had a shot at the title from the outset, he said.

“I thought it was going to be an uphill climb given that we were competing against schools who’d been on High School Quiz Show every single season,” he said. “But once we got in the studio, and it was just us showing off our knowledge, I knew we had something special.”

The school’s underdog status emboldened its second- round opponent, Acton-Boxborough, Bradford said. In the green room before the game, the school’s team heard Acton-Boxborough’s team through the dividing curtain, already planning their next match, as if a victory was given.

“We heard them talking like, ‘Oh we’re going to be playing Lexington next,’” Bradford said. “As if it’s like, ‘We’re just going to walk through BB&N.’ I brought the team, and we were huddling up, and I said, ‘We’re going to beat these guys. We’re going to go.’ And then we came out guns blazing, and that’s a 540 to 150 score. It ignited a fire in the team.”

Strategies which the school’s team employed included conferring with one another before answering a question but deferring to the knowledge of the expert in the subject, buzzing in before Mr. Costa had finished his question, anticipating how it might end, and answering it early. After each of their matches, the team debriefed with Coaches Sam Crihfield and Chip Rollinson to discuss improvements to their approach for the next round.

It was emotional to watch his lifelong love for trivia culminate in winning High School Quiz Show, Bradford said. The answer to the question about Stonewall Jackson, which was the Battle of Chancellorsville, was something Bradford’s grandfather taught him when he was 9.

“I remember my grandfather specifically taught me about that at the dinner table. He said, ‘You should know about this battle.’ And he passed away later that fall. It was the second to last question in the finals that clinched it for the team, and it was because I had that relationship with my grandfather. So, it was a special moment.”

Equally special were the friendships he built with his teammates, Bradford said.

“What this taught me is there’s nothing better than a team that works well together. When there’s a team, the individuals fade away, and the team wins.”

Winning the competition is one of Daniel’s favorite memories from his senior year, as unexpected as it was, he said.

“There was an element of disbelief with how far we’d gotten. I just joined the team and in two days we won the state championship.”

Asher noted that the newly reorganized team was quick to form a tight bond.

“The team chemistry was great,” he said. “We all got much closer over preparing together.”

Henry also enjoyed spending time with his teammates, he said.

“My favorite part about competing on the show was the camaraderie and how much fun we had,” Henry said.

Mr. Crihfield, who said he and Mr. Rollinson primarily acted as “cheerleaders,” admired the team’s dynamic, he said.

“I was really impressed by the teamwork. In all the episodes, you can see the edge that the teamwork had given us,” Mr. Crihfield said. “Our guys were always consulting with each other.”

The show’s Executive Producer Hillary Wells said the school’s team distinguished itself by its sportsmanship.

“They were incredibly gracious,” she said. “They clapped for other teams. They had a spirit about them. Looking at BB&N’s mission and values, I think that the school can be really proud of this team because they really embodied those in such a wonderful way. So, a lot to be proud of there.”

The support the team received from the school community was also of note, Ms. Wells said.

“The community spirit and the sense of support that this team got from your school and from your community was tremendous. It was tremendous. That always stands out to us, and to see the signs of the heads in the studio and to see Dr. Price coming in as Bucky the mascot was awesome.”

Madera Longstreet-Lipson ’23, who sat in the studio audience during the finals, said she felt pride in her school.

“I knew we were good, but I never realized we were that good,” she said. “For us to make it all the way to the finals and win, and absolutely demolishing the other teams, was this realization that the trivia team is very knowledgeable and works very hard. It was a huge moment of BB&N pride for me.”