What about the bad feeling you get when you get one wrong?
"That just challenges me to learn more about it, and work harder."
MacDonald got hooked in a two-stage process.
"A friend of mine got me to join the speech team. Then, someone on the speech team got me to join quiz bowl."
Canfield, meanwhile, played on a quiz bowl team in middle school. He was attracted to Catholic's team for a different reason -- the open road.
"When I was a freshman in middle school, the high school team here was getting to go to places like Chicago, New Orleans. I just thought it'd be neat to go travel places. I'd always watched shows like 'Jeopardy' too. That kind of got me interested, too."
Founded three years ago, the bowl's mission, as described by its website, historybowl.com, is to remedy the fact that "history education has been somewhat neglected at the secondary school level in recent years."
Maybe as importantly, the bowl's aim is to make history seem less like a cold recitation of dates and historical figures. As the site explains:
"This includes an appreciation of the idea that history is not just a morass of names and dates, but a key to understanding every human endeavor, from the battlefield to the baseball field, from the political arena to the photography studio, from sacred places to the science lab."
Charleston Catholic's team first competed in the History Bowl finals in 2011, finishing "in the middle of the pack," Arnold said. They also qualified in 2012, but couldn't go because of scheduling conflicts. This year, they took the West Virginia title at a state championship held at Parkersburg High School in February and the dates for the championship worked out.
The school's Academic Team, which includes a half-dozen other students who compete in other contests, also qualified in a companion event, the National History Bee, a one-on-one contest, unlike the team contest of the History Bowl. MacDonald, Missett and Settle will compete individually in the Bee on Sunday against more than 300 other students.
Charleston Catholic doesn't recruit students for its team -- the ones who have an interest seem to find their own way to the buzzer, Arnold said. This year's squad is better on some topics than others. Arnold lays out its strengths and weaknesses:
"We get kids that are great in math, literature. We're usually very strong in those topics. History is one of strongest. Sports. Current events -- we're usually pretty good in that. Our weakest is music and art."
How do you get to be so rounded academically that you're good at so many topics?
"If you take classes in many different subjects like good, hard academic classes you learn a lot then," Missett said. "If you read a lot, watch movies, just generally stay informed ... You learn things just by opening your eyes a little bit and looking around."
As for the competition itself, the early rounds are more relaxing than stressful, Canfield said. That changes, though, as you advance.
"Once you get to the afternoon round and are in the playoffs, it kind of feels like a sport, in a way. Because you really do want to win at that point."
Reach Douglas Imbrogno at doug...@cnpapers.com or 304-348-3017