With 25 students on the Wellington High School Scholars Bowl team, Coach Sarah House had the biggest group of kids she has had in her 21 years of coaching with WHS.
Out of 18 teams, WHS recently took first place in the regional scholars bowl tournament.
The group that won was "the right kids on the right day with the right set of questions," House said.
She kept that same group together when Wellington competed in and hosted the state tournament, which Fort Scott won. It was the sixth time the WHS scholars bowl team has qualified for the state tournament in House’s years of coaching.
"It was a lot of pressure and extremely stressful going into regionals, but we just went in, thinking we weren’t coming home without taking first," senior Hunter Bryant said in an email. "State was a much different situation, however. We played teams we’ve never faced before who had a lot more practice and actual classes for scholars bowl."
Senior Mason Lough said at regionals, the team tried to "keep the pressure at a minimum by just playing it round-by-round and not thinking about the big picture until it was over. Competing at state was similar to regionals, but I think we all felt the pressure a little more there."
Of all the members of the team, House takes six students to tournaments with five students participating as a team and one on the bench that can be switched in.
"They each have something they’re really good at," House, the WHS librarian said. "We have one that’s better at foreign language, one that’s great at math, one that’s a great fine arts person."
Bryant said the team only went as far as it did by each other helping and supporting each other "because no one person could have won on their own. We had a few tough games, but the toughest games in my mind were the hard losses. They lowered our morale, but each time Mrs House just told us we’ll get the next one and bounce back."
All the questions are based on Kansas curriculum so the students know ahead of time what the categories are. They start practicing in August three days a week, start going to tournaments in October and the season ends in February. When practicing answering questions, the students use buzzers because scholars’ bowl competitions are all about quickness and which team can buzz in first with the right answer.
"It’s been interesting this year because out of those 25 kids, there were about eight seniors," House said. "Some of them are first time competitors. So instead of having an experienced team that I can let go and do their own thing, there’s some teaching because I don’t like to play those seniors on JV. It’s not fair to other schools. I don’t bring them to novice tournaments. That’s not fair either."
There were few sophomores and juniors on scholars bowl, but the freshman class was a third of the team, House said.
"I hope those kids come back because there’s a lot of potential there for this to be good around here for a while," she said.
House said she likes the relationships she builds with the kids on her teams.
"You coach kids differently than you teach kids," she said. "You have a different relationship with kids you coach. I think it’s closer."
House likes taking car trips with kids to tournaments and listening to them talk about their lives, what they’re struggling with and what they’re happy about.
"I like teenagers," she said. "I like how their brains work. I think they help me not forget what that was like. It’s been a while since I was in high school, but there is a component to them keeping you young. You have to keep up with them."
Sometimes House thinks "I’m not so young anymore" and wonders if she should step back and let somebody else coach the team, she said.
"I always think, ‘Maybe this is time to stop doing this’" House said. "Then I see a class of freshmen and I think, ‘I want to hang on to this for four more years."