CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It's not quite as well known as the Orange Bowl or Cotton Bowl, but the National History Bowl approaches this weekend in Washington, D.C., and a West Virginia team is contending for victory.
The Charleston Catholic High School Academic Team, overseen by teacher Amy Donaldson Arnold with help from Martin Jones, will compete in the bowl Friday through Sunday with students Alex MacDonald, Kelly Missett, Ben Canfield and Jonathan Settle.
The four students are this year's West Virginia history bowl champs, going head to head (literally, when you think about it) in the History Bowl national championships against 130 teams from across the country.
"It's kind of like a spelling bee, but for history," Arnold said.
The team's mission is to be smart and quick enough to press the buzzer first on questions like this:
"This entity signed the Peace of Wordingborg, and reached the height of its power after signing the Peace of Stralsund. Before being attacked by Waldemar IV, it achieved dominance through the use of cog ships, although its monopoly was eventually broken by the Dutch. Founded in the twelfth century by merchants in Hamburg and Lubeck, for 10 points name this medieval federation of North German shipping towns."
If you didn't know the answer -- the Hanseatic League -- maybe you need to use your lunch breaks to train, as the four students on the team sometimes do in Charleston Catholic's biology lab.
One day last week, Arnold fed them questions as the students held buzzers in hand, feeding themselves lunch while facing off in an intramural 60-second lightning round contest.
"OK, you guys get to choose -- Ancient Historians or Revolutionary War Battles?" Arnold said.
Revolutionary War Battles sounded more appealing, MacDonald said.
In competition question-speak, the teacher tested her team:
"What was the last major battle in the Carolinas in which the British won a tactical victory under Alexander Stewart, but the Americans gained strategic ground under Nathanial Green?"
"Camden?" Missett said.
"Camden," Settle seconded.
The Battle of Camden is correct.
But, wait, here's another question. Why spend your lunchtime doing with your brain what you have to do the whole school day long?
"I just moved here in August. I was on the team in my old school and I really liked it. So I thought it would be fun to do it here," Missett said.
"It's just really fun -- trying to figure out the questions," Settle said. "I like the good feeling I get when I get one right."