Written by Amy Bode
Who was the protagonist in Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow?
With a tied score, the correct answer would send either Piasa or Timothy Christian Schools to the championship round at the Scholastic Bowl State Tournament. Piasa had control of the question—and didn’t know the answer.
But Timothy Christian senior Daniel Kuiper did.
“Ichabod Crane,” he buzzed in.
That answer sent Timothy Christian Schools to the finals. “It was surreal,” Coach Carlton Rink says, who also teaches physics at Timothy Christian. “Statistically we should have lost that match. The questions were hard and obscure, things that I didn’t even know. It didn’t look good.”
Scholastic Bowl is like Jeopardy, but played as a team. Two teams of five players face-off while the moderator reads questions on a wide variety of academic subjects that cover everything from math, literature, art, and geography. The match starts with a toss-up question, which means the individual who buzzes in first gets the first chance to answer the question. Once the toss-up question is answered correctly, it is followed by three bonus questions that can be discussed among team members. Only ten seconds are allowed to answer each question.
Timothy’s team included Daniel Kuiper, Jacob Houseman, Thomas Jenkins, Trevor Hoogendoorn, Seth Buikema, Will DeMey, Anna Miller, Carl Miller, Nathaniel Yurschak, and Nick Alvarez. Each of them specialized in a subject and spent months preparing for the State tournament.
The team would often gather after school and scrimmage against each other like a real match. Or they would each take a subject matter, for example a musician such as Johann Sebastian Bach, and come up with questions and visual aids to study.
But just as important as building on their knowledge, was gaining confidence to buzz in before the competition did. Buzzing in before the moderator finishes asking the question is a strategic way to gain control of the match. “Some kids are more aggressive about buzzing in,” Mr. Rink says. “But you have to be able to take some chances. Otherwise the other team will buzz in before you.”
Over time, Daniel, who specialized in literature and mythology, gained the confidence to take calculated risks, often turning the tide of the match. His educated guesses were often gleaned from facts that he retained from seemingly random places. Once, while waiting for his calculus class to start, he noticed notes on the board from the advanced math class that explained Eulerian paths and Hamiltonian paths. “A question came up in a match that was very similar to what I had remembered seeing on the board,” Daniel says. “So I just guessed Hamiltonian, and I was right!”
Another time, he was able to answer the question: What is the name of the chain that bound the wolf Fenrir and is made out of such things as the roots of a mountain and the sinews of a bear? “I knew right away it was Gleipnir,” Daniel says. “I used to play a game on my Game Boy and all the weapons were names from mythology.”
It’s Daniel’s confidence in his ability to take an educated guess and his dedication to continue learning that helped earn him the title First Team All-State. It was an honor that was given to only the top 10 students from schools in the 1A class division. “I have a desire to pursue knowledge,” Daniel says. “I haven’t read nearly all the books that I’d like to. There’s way too much to read in a lifetime.”
It’s this desire to learn, that helped propel Timothy Christian Schools to its first Scholastic Bowl State Championship title. “I sensed at the beginning of last year that they had the ability to pull off a State Championship,” Mr. Rink says. “But I also know that anything could have happened. We could have lost that match to Piasa.”
After narrowly beating Piasa, Timothy went on to the final match against Williamsville. There are only twenty-four questions in a match, but by the twentieth question, Mr. Rink knew his team had clinched the State Title. “I knew there weren’t enough points left for Williamsville to win,” Mr. Rink says. “It was hard to contain ourselves. The emotions started coming up, but I knew I had to be respectful of the other team.”
It’s this respect that Mr. Rink tried to instill in his team throughout the season. Before the final match he led the team in devotions based on Matthew 6:21. “I wanted the team to treasure the journey and the relationships,” Mr. Rink says. “No matter the outcome, I want them to celebrate the gifts that God has given them.”
Daniel is proud of ending his Scholastic Bowl career at Timothy Christian Schools as a State Champion. But as he prepares to graduate and begin his freshman year at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, it’s not the trophy or the title that he is focused on. It’s what Mr. Rink told them before the match: Winning isn’t everything. “It’s not about having glory for ourselves,” Daniel says. “We can be proud of our achievement, but it’s more important how we interact with teammates and other people. It’s more important to give glory to God than having treasures here on earth.”