ITHACA, N.Y. — On Memorial Day weekend, Ithaca High School’s Brain Team competed in the national quiz bowl tournament in Atlanta, Georgia; an annual tournament the team has been invited to compete in every year since 2015.

The event was organized by National Academic Quiz Tournaments, LLC, which provides standardized test questions and a nationwide competition format open to all middle schools, high schools and colleges that wish to partake in the national quiz bowl championship in North America.

According to, quiz bowl is a game or competition in which two teams compete head-to-head to answer questions from all general areas of knowledge including history, literature, science, fine arts, current events, sports, popular culture, and more, adding, “You can think of it as similar to a team version of high school ‘Jeopardy’”.

Benjamin Kirk, the IHS Brain Team coach, explained the way the tournament is set up: a team plays ten rounds during the preliminary rounds and their record will determine if they go on to the playoff rounds. The preliminary rounds usually take place on Saturday and the playoffs occur on Sunday.

Kirk added that the team will compete in two different national competitions, one in Atlanta and another in Washington, which are both sponsored by different groups.

“The one during Memorial Day weekend is the big one though, since close to four hundred teams are going from across the country as well as a few international teams. Luckily, we’ve always had a really strong team, although last year’s team was probably the strongest we’ve ever had since I have been coach of the team,” he said. 

Last year the IHS Brain Team had made it to the final eight out of more than 200 other teams, making this the second time in the history of the tournament that a 6-4 team in the preliminary rounds made it to the quarter finals.

This year, the IHS Brain Team ranked 51st place at the national quiz bowl tournament.

Members of Brain Team also had high hopes about heading off to nationals this year.

“We’ll probably do very well,” said IHS sophomore Aidan Uckun, adding that only four members of Brain Team, along with their coach, were flying to Atlanta on Friday.

Other students gave insight into how the team prepared for the national tournament.

“Individually we all work very hard and have our own interests that we develop outside of school, so I’d say everyone is very self-motivated. Each of us also specialize in different subjects; I’m more interested in history, sports and religion, while another member of the team is good at geography and someone else is good at literature and U.S. history,” said three-year Brain Team member Isaiah Gutman.

Gutman went on to praise their coach, saying, “Some teams have a coach who forces them to study all the time, but Mr. Kirk actually helps us study. He’s done a great job developing our talents that we’ve all developed in different ways.”  

Brain Team meets after school every Monday at IHS, and is open to all high school students who wish to expand their overall knowledge through trivia.   

Feature photo: Members of Brain Team preparing for the national quiz bowl tournament at Ithaca High School. (Photo by J.T. Stone)

J.T. Stone is a contributor for The Ithaca Voice and a 2020 graduate of Ithaca High School. Questions? Story tips? Email him at