September 22, 2018
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  • Coached by Eric Bitoude, the Broadneck Bruin team includes sophomore Jameson Gilkey, sophomore Will Sizemore and senior Sander Miller.
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    Coached by Eric Bitoude, the Broadneck Bruin team includes sophomore Jameson Gilkey, sophomore Will Sizemore and senior Sander Miller.

Local High Schools Battle For Bragging Rights On “It’s Academic”

Judy Tacyn
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January 10, 2018

Many parents and grandparents may remember waking up early on Saturday mornings to watch their local high schools compete on “It’s Academic.” That’s because the show has been in production since 1961. What started on NBC4 in Washington, D.C., continues to be America’s foremost high school quiz show, even being recognized by “The Guinness Book of World Records” as the world’s longest-running TV quiz show.

On January 13, tune into WJZ-TV at 10:00am to watch Broadneck High School and Severn School battle with Century High School (Sykesville, Maryland) and find out which high school provided the most correct answers to history, math, literature, science, sports and current events questions. The episode was filmed in Baltimore on November 18.

The Broadneck team is coached by Eric Bitoude, a mathematics teacher. Broadneck Bruin members include sophomore team captain Jameson Gilkey, sophomore Will Sizemore and senior Sander Miller. The Severn School team is coached by Julien Meyer, chairman of the mathematics department. The Admirals team includes senior Aidan Wang, junior Emily Shaener and junior Nathan Thompson.

“The opening round began with constitutional law questions. I thought this was lucky because I had just studied all the constitutional amendments earlier that day,” said Wang. “Also, there was a question directed to us that asked about the Roman road known as the Appian Way. At first, that question was really intimidating, but I recalled reading about it in one of my Latin translations.”

Prior to the January 13 broadcast, neither Bitoude nor Meyer would provide any hints on who took top honors between the cross-town teams. “It was a neck-and-neck match the whole time,” said Meyer. “The three teams were evenly matched. Both Severn and Broadneck earned 25-point bonuses in the individual team round for getting all eight questions in a row correct.”

“It’s Academic” team members practice constantly, whether they are at lunch, gathering before or after school, hosting weekend get-togethers or attending quiz bowl tournaments. Though Anne Arundel County public and private schools may look for local bragging rights, Meyer insists that it’s all in the name of friendly competition.

“We also scrimmage against Severna Park High School from time to time, and the coaches and the teams are very cooperative and friendly,” he said. “The matchups are set in the spring. They are totally random, but they can provide some interesting subplots.”

Wang said he enjoys the camaraderie that participants share. “For me, ‘It’s Academic’ is like a team sport, so the members of our team are very close to one another and we all work well together,” said Wang. “Even though ‘It’s Academic’ and quiz bowls are competitions, I have never felt overly stressed or competitive, because everyone, including the competitors, is supportive. After each round during the taping, the host and other sponsors of the show gave us words of encouragement, and after one team won, we all shook hands.”

In its “offseason,” Gilkey said his team is going to work on its reaction time. “We knew the answer to every question, but I think we were a little slow to the buzzer. This was a good learning experience for our first-year competitors.”

“Every time we got together, I learned something new,” said Miller.

Gilkey, Sizemore and Miller would like to thank their parents, fans and fellow students who attended the taping. “We had a very large and vocal Broadneck contingent,” said Gilkey, “definitely the largest crowd in the audience that day.”

Of the nine competitors from the three teams in the match, only one student was a returning player on the show. All six Severn and Broadneck competitors were new to the show.

“The students will remember competing for the rest of their lives,” said Meyer. “It’s cool being part of a show that has such a long pedigree.”

Notable “It’s Academic” alumni include Hillary Clinton and George Stephanopoulos. Political commentator Cokie Roberts’ first job in TV was on the production staff. Questions have been asked by Colin Powell, and Sandra Bullock’s high school cheerleading squad once came to the studio to root for its school.

In addition to programs in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Central Virginia and Hawaii, “It’s Academic” is produced under other names in Cleveland and Pittsburgh. In the past, it has also been produced in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Denver, Boston, Jacksonville, San Diego, Norfolk, Phoenix and Raleigh, according to the “It’s Academic” website.

Update: You can watch the episode here


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