A local high school trivia team recently won an international championship on Whiz Quiz, a televised trivia game on PBS.
The Frontenac Secondary School (FSS) Trivia Team travelled to Watertown, New York to take part in the long-running quiz show. Their match, in which they defeated a team from Potsdam, New York, aired on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023.
Michelle Lee, coach of the FSS Trivia Team, told Kingstonist she has wanted to organize a trivia team for students since she began her teaching career, mainly because of her past experience with the game. “Playing trivia under the guidance of my wonderful coach Ms. Paidra was a highlight of my time in high school,” she said.
“Unfortunately, with the way staffing worked, I was bounced around from school to school from 2009 to 2019, so I couldn’t really get anything off the ground,” Lee explained. “When I finally landed at FSS for good, we were on strike, and then the pandemic hit. But once clubs were up and running again in 2022, I jumped at the chance, and here we are.”
This is the second year for the FSS trivia team. This year’s team includes Reese Berman, Grade 10; Alissa Easir, Grade 10; Masa Chau, Grade 11; and Owen Healey, Grade 12.
Lee said she knew they had a strong team and a good chance of winning the match, but she was a bit apprehensive as their opponents had won championships in the past. Also, FSS had lost a close game last year in their only previous appearance at Whiz Quiz.
The International Whiz Quiz Championship pits the best American team against the best Canadian team, both usually chosen by a championship tournament. But this year, FSS was the only Canadian team to apply — something Lee joked she’d prefer not to share.
“It’s a game. The Americans have a full season of tournaments; had there been other Canadian teams, we would have had to beat them in tournament play,” she explained.
In response to questions from Kingstonist, the Trivia Team members shared that they greatly enjoyed competing on Whiz Quiz.
Masa Chau said he joined the team to “have fun with people.”
“I thought [the] Potsdam [team] would be better,” he commented, noting he felt “happy and proud” when he realized they were on track to win.
Reese Berman remarked that this year’s team is strong in sports, geography, mythology, movies, TV, pop culture, and The Lion King. She joined the team in Grade 9 because “it seemed like a fun thing to get involved in just starting high school.”
Owen Healey stated that his favourite part of competing is getting to put all the team’s skills to use to try and win as a team and travel to different cities. “I wanted to join trivia because I love learning and sharing little facts with others, and because I do my best to be involved in my school community wherever possible,” he said.
When asked if there was a moment when he recognized their team was likely to beat Potsdam, Healey said, “There wasn’t a specific moment I realized we were going to win, but as the rounds went by and our lead got bigger, I got hopeful that we’d be able to bring the title home after last year’s defeat.”
But this year, Lee said, “My confidence level in my team skyrocketed during the warm-up, as FSS tripled their score. I was glad to see them continue with that momentum when the cameras were rolling and the points were for real!”
She added that she would love to see other local schools start their own trivia teams. “Kingston used to have huge participation in the Whiz Quiz and Reach for the Top circuits, and it’d be great to see that come back. We’re currently travelling to Ottawa for Reach games, as well as for tournaments in a new league called Consensus. It’s a lot of fun for the kids and a great way to showcase our school’s academic prowess.”
With files from Tori Stafford.