By VINCENT WOO
The UHS Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) Academic Bowl team placed first in their group in the preliminary round at the Western regional competition in Phoenix, Arizona before losing in the quarterfinal round, ending their bid for an appearance in the national competition.
The Deaf Academic Bowl (DAB) Western Division was held at the Phoenix Day School for the Deaf on March 1 and 2, and featured teams from twenty schools from across the western United States.
The DAB team was comprised of seniors Christian Blanco and Gerardo Reyes, sophomore Teck Ho and freshman Joe Saraceni. Junior Precious Palomar served as an alternate player.
Academic Bowl coaches Ms. Kay Anderson and Mr. Brendan Bonette believe the recent improvement in the team’s performance is the result of a balance in the team’s individual abilities.
“We have a feeling that the team has done a lot better than last year [because] each player on the team has had their own strengths, and that really contributes to the equality of the team,” Anderson said. “We have two players that are really great at math, and one with current events, so all of them are contributing equally.”
The DAB team competed in a pool of five teams, going head-to-head with each school in the group. The top four teams in each group entered a playoff round, with the winner of each match advancing to the next round until an eventual champion was declared.
DAB matches feature two teams going head-to-head and answering questions from eight general categories over three rounds. The first round consists of students buzzing in to answer trivia questions as quickly as possible. The second round involves students taking turns answering problems with no communication allowed between teams. The final round consists of ten questions, all from one specific category. Teams work together for two minutes to offer answers.
“I have to say that our team did a wonderful job,” Anderson said. “We ended up being first in our pool… [we] qualified for the [last] sixteen. We made it to the [last] eight and lost by one question. We were hoping to get into the top four which qualify for nationals.”
Senior and team member Gerardo Reyes believes good team chemistry helped the team’s run in the Bowl.
“For me personally, I feel this year’s team is a lot stronger than the one we had last year,” Reyes said. “I like working with the new freshmen — there are two players on our team that are new- these two were amazing. They have given their all for the team, and I really enjoy them.”
The team’s strong performance at the regional competition has also been a good showcase of the DHH program on campus. The DHH program consists of 2.6% of all students at UHS, with 62 students and 39 staff members, including teachers, paraeducators, interpreters, and administrative staff.
“I think the Deaf Academic Bowl is considered a big thing within the deaf community,” Anderson said. “We do have a lot of [DHH] schools and programs in the area, so when we send our UHS team to the bowl… people are looking at us and saying ‘Oh wow, they’re doing amazing things, they have a really good program at University High.’ So it’s a good representation of the program here.”
The competition offers a good chance for the students to make professional connections for the future.
“What we see happening is a kind of networking. When these students that are here now are going to college and entering the real world, they already have some associations after [competing] in the Academic Bowl,” Bonnette said.
Blanco’s efforts for the team were recognized at the competition, as he received the Four Year Player Award for competing in the Academic Bowl all four years of his high school career.
The DAB team reached the quarterfinals of the Western competition before being eliminated by hosts Phoenix Day School for the Deaf, stopping their run for qualification to the national competition.
The Deaf and Hard of Hearing Academic Bowl was founded by Gallaudet University in 1997, and has run annually since.
Although the team lost at regionals, many of the players thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Next year’s regional competition will take place at the Hawaii School for the Deaf and Blind in Honolulu.
“There’s a bunch of people in the [DHH] community that have supported us,” Reyes said. “They’re like a family to me… even though we had a really big loss at the regionals, they have shown a lot of love for us.”