Heights High team wins televised Academic Challenge

Maple Buescher, Rohan Bruce and Leo Kenealy (seated) with alternates (standing, left to right) Sam Hermes and Elliot Zoldak on the set of Academic Challenge at WEWS-TV. 

Cleveland Heights High School junior Rohan Bruce has “always really liked reading," and commented, "I retain a lot of (seemingly) useless information"—a skill she puts to use as captain of the high school’s Academic Challenge team.

Bruce and teammates Maple Buescher and Leo Kenealy competed against St. Ignatius and North Ridgeville high schools on the Academic Challenge program on March 23 on WEWS-TV (Channel 5/ABC). Their Heights High team won, scoring 505 points to St. Ignatius’ 485. North Ridgeville came in third with 380. 

Academic Challenge is a quiz show for high school students, testing their knowledge of topics ranging from literature and history to physics and geography. A fledgling club was started at the middle school level a few years ago, which is where sophomores Buescher and Kenealy got their start. Buescher hoped to continue competing in high school and proposed a club to administrators, who approved the idea as long as she could find an advisor. Social studies teacher Karl Neitzel stepped up to the challenge, so to speak.

“Each student has their own areas of expertise,” said Neitzel. “One might know everything about history while another reads all the time.” The quiz structure includes team rounds, where students have time to confer with one another, and lightning rounds, where they have to buzz in as quickly as possible.

All three students said they were extremely nervous about competing on television. In fact, Bruce said she was so scared at the start that she thought she might be sick. But, according to Buescher, “The WEWS staff and our competitors were all super friendly. We had an intense and competitive game, that was also incredibly fun and rewarding.”

Kenealy called the experience “amazing," and said, "Maple, Rohan and I were proud to represent Heights High on TV.”

The team won first place in an intense back-and-forth final minute that started out with Heights 20 points ahead and saw them tied with St. Ignatius 30 seconds later. With just ten seconds remaining, St. Ignatius was up by 10 points, until Rohan correctly identified Mozart’s opera “The Magic Flute” to pull ahead as the final seconds wound down.

Krissy Dietrich Gallagher

Krissy Dietrich Gallagher, a longtime resident of Cleveland Heights, is a former district teacher, and a freelance journalist under contract with the CH-UH City School District.

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Volume 12, Issue 5, Posted 10:56 AM, 04.30.2019