York Students Go to HCASC Nationals, Prove That Smarts Are Still Sexy
Three students huddled around a buzzer, racking their brains on “Marvelous Characters.” One student hit the buzzer.
“Beast!” yelled the student.
“Correct,” said team captain Swatanter “Swattie” Polce.
And with that, the practice was done. York College’s Honda Campus All-Stars Challenge team was headed to Los Angeles where they would tie for fourth place in the national championship.
“The Honda Campus All-Stars is an academic quiz bowl team,” explained Polce. “We compete in a competition in Los Angeles California, for a chance to win $50,000 on behalf of the university.”
The team is made up of four students and during the competition they participate in a total of five games. One game consists of four rounds in which the first three are played individually and the team chooses a member based on a list of categories.
“We choose the person who is strongest in that category,” said Polce. “My strengths are biology, chemistry and social science.”
The final round is played three-on-three while an alternate member keeps score. “We didn’t do as well as we had hoped, but it was a good networking experience,” said team member Tess Mercer.
The event takes place over a four day period, and is reserved for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, to which both York College and Medgar Evars belong.
According to Polce, the process begins in the fall and starts with a series of power quizzes, administered campus wide.
“We aim for the students that are more active in clubs,” said Mercer. “Our biggest group that takes the test is the National Honor Society for Leadership and Success.”
A total of ten quizzes are given to students. Based on their score and major, the top 50 students are invited to a follow-up meeting where they form small teams and compete against each other.
In late January, the coach chooses the top four students who have made the team. The team then goes to Maryland to compete against other schools in the Qualifying National Championship Tournament. Out of 72 teams, the top 48 are invited to California to compete in the nationals.
At nationals the teams are assigned to one of eight divisions. Each division consists of six teams from the various schools. The divisions, formed at random are given the name of a historical African American figure.
“We were a part of the Marcus Garvey division,” said Polce.
Within their division the teams compete against each other to qualify for the “Sweet 16.” However, York’s team only made the top 30.
“It was a long shot since we only won one game,” said Polce as she referred to the team’s record of one in four.
“This year we have a really focused team,” said Mercer during the team’s final practice. “We’ve done a lot of studying, so we’re definitely going in strong.”
The team’s coach Erzulie Vica Mars called the team astounding and before nationals, Polce credited Mars with preparing the team for the competition.
“If it wasn’t for our coach we wouldn’t really be as prepared as we feel we are right now,” said Polce.
In preparation for the competition, Mars provided the team with quizzes for homework that they would expect to be quizzed on during the championship — and it runs the gamut of topics like math, science, history, philosophy and pop culture. This year’s semi-finals had an entire section dedicated to old-school hip hop and rap.
Twice a week in two-hour sessions, the team also reviewed questions from the database provided by the event’s coordinators .
This year the competition entered its 25th year and marked the eighth year York has competed. Polce was on last year’s team along with Mercer and Philip Alerte, a Health Management major.
“We placed third in our division, which is the best our university has done,” said Alerte.
This year, the team tied for fourth in its division and only won one out of five games. Although they lost the competition, all of the members agreed they did great.
“We only won one game,” said Barnes. “But I feel like we won them all considering our scores,” said Barnes.
According to Polce, their division included last year’s top four teams as well as last year’s champions.
“We were against some tough competition,” said Polce. “As the team captain I am upset we didn’t make it further, but I made 50 or 60 new friends that weekend and it was the networking and meeting new people from all across the country that made it all worth while.”