Well, it appears that with Karl and James unable to make it, I am the main link to the world outside the Hyatt Regency this year. I, myself, am getting there at the last minute, flying out early Sunday morning the day after my brother’s wedding.
This will be my 20th nationals in a row to attend: One as a spectator, one as a scorekeeper, five as a quizzer, four as a judge and nine as a quizmaster. It remains one of my favorite times of year. Getting to see friends, both old and new, makes the trip worthwhile. And there’s nothing more satisfying to me than hearing a quizzer get a hard concordance question (especially when that quizzer was me!). This is the culmination of a mind-blowing amount of work and all of the quizzers should be proud at what they’ve been able to achieve since nationals last year.
The Gospel of Matthew will always have a special place in my heart because it was the best finish our team ever had back in 1997. (You can read a full recollection here). Beyond the really cool plaque our team walked away with, the lasting value of that year continues to amaze me. The book itself is chock full of interesting stories showing the big fight that took place between Jesus and the religious establishment, that can sometimes parallel what we see in the church today. Famous passages like the Genealogy, the Sermon on the Mount, or the commissioning of Peter remain with me to this day.
Enough reminiscing. On to nationals this year! To start, it’s already been mentioned that there will be no official streaming. These hotels charge a fortune for internet in the convention center area, so I think this is probably justified financially. We will try our best to get streaming of the major events using some other means. This all depends on how good the 4G is in the hotel. If we cannot do that for whatever reason, we will still put a chat room on the front page of the website that we can keep people updated as the championship games progress.
As for predictions,
I won’t make any predictions about who will actually win nationals. I expect both Owasso and Bothell to make the top four. This is Daniel Wagner’s last year as a quizzer and I’m sure he’s hoping to go out with a bang. Should Owasso walk away with the championship, it will become the only team to win nationals three years in a row and more than four times. Bothell should definitely not be counted out. With the addition of Abby to their team this year, they will prove to be a very strong team. Veteran coach Kari Brodin is herself a national champion over Matthew in 1981 (read Kari’s amazing recollection of that event here). As an interesting historical aside, if Bothell wins nationals this year, that will be the first time the same church has won nationals on the same book in different years. The remaining two teams for the Final Four are a little murkier. With no Garfield returning, the field is pretty open. I sort of expect a bloodbath to take place for those two spots, with Owasso and Bothell having a commanding lead and the other two teams finishing with several more losses. I haven’t been to a lot of tournaments this year, so I haven’t seen all the teams, but part of me always roots for my home church of Central A/G. They return this year with their 24th team at national finals and have a good chance of doing well. James River also returns and you cannot count out any team that John Porter coaches. I think one thing these two teams (and many others) struggle with is being as good at the buzzer as they are on paper. That means, playing your best game against powerhouse teams like Owasso and Bothell, and if they lose, don’t turn around and lose the next game to a team that they shouldn’t. I don’t mean to omit any teams from this analysis and I’m really not willing to make any predictions beyond Owasso and Bothell.
As for individual honors, the last few years have been a battle between Abby Rogers and Daniel Wagner and that’s what I expect this year. Abby might be on track to break a 14-year old record if she can claim the top scorer title again. She has a slightly tougher challenge this year as she quizzes with Ani and Adi Purohith. Between her and Daniel, I expect almost every question asked next week will have been studied well by at least one of them. They are both incredibly talented quizzers and it’s been a privilege watching them do what they do best. I also don’t mean to omit any other talented quizzers here. Lots of people work very hard to be the best, and if one of them wants to step up and take any of the individual titles, more power to them. Just know that you have a hard road ahead!
Two interesting historical tidbits: This year marks what I believe to be the longest gap between two qualifying appearances at national finals, with Lakeview Temple in Indianapolis having last qualified in 1973! (There is an asterisk here as they did attend as a wild card in 2004). Two teams also qualified from South Dakota this year, making them the first such teams since Bonesteel, SD made it to the second nationals in 1964.
Lastly, we expect to host another “Match of Death” late Thursday night, after the banquet. This has become the premier exhibition quiz of nationals, where everyone can “let their hair down” and hear some funny and some downright insane questions. Greg House and I have each contributed to the set and the prizes this year and we hope you won’t be disappointed.
My best wishes go to all the coaches, quizzers and officials as we dive head first into what awaits us.