CHHS Academic Team wins local challenge; competes in nationals

Heights High team members Derek Korane, Natalie Bier, and Niko Bell at the Academic Challenge championship.

The Cleveland Heights High School Academic Team had a remarkable end to its 2022–23 season, with a local championship victory and a trip to a national tournament.

Seniors Derek Korane, Kenji Sakaie, Noah Sears, and Arthur Stadlin; juniors Natalie Bier and Niko Bell; and freshman Gabe Dodson comprised the team.

On May 27, News Channel 5’s "Nordson Academic Challenge" television show aired its Championship Finale, in which Heights High and the season’s other top teams, Revere and Cloverleaf, faced off. In an extremely tight competition, Heights pulled off a come-from-behind win.

“I’m honestly still a little surprised we won the TV show,” said Bier. “Going into the championship game, we knew Revere was really good, and then they were ahead for much of the game. So, I had sort of accepted that we would get second, but then we won in the last round and it was just amazing.”

With help from the $6,000 "Academic Challenge" grand prize, it was on to Atlanta over Memorial Day weekend, where the team competed in the National Academic Quiz Tournaments (NAQT) National Championship, which, compared to Academic Challenge, is the big-league.

The 2023 NAQT Nationals comprised 304 local-tournament-winning teams and 1,500 players, from high schools from across the country. Heights High qualified for Nationals by winning a NAQT tournament in Solon in the fall.

Under NAQT rules, each 18-minute match offers up to 24 toss-up questions, with the quickest correct response earning the team three themed bonus questions.

“Each question drops these little hints that I can use to piece together the answer with my own knowledge,” said Stadlin. “What wins a game is being able to piece together the answer faster than the other team.”

After a grueling schedule of 10 matches, Heights had a record of 6-4, which qualified them for the playoffs.

“We did really well at Nationals,” said Bier, “but even then, there were some teams that did so much better than us.”

Victorious in their first playoff match, the Tigers were knocked out in the second round, earning a tournament rank of 65th.

“I have an amazing, brilliant group of students,” said advisor Karl Neitzel, a social studies teacher at Heights High. “They have been training for this moment since middle school, and it shows.”

These accomplishments are a first for the program, which had to pause during the COVID pandemic. While the team will miss those members who have graduated, it is extremely proud of what it accomplished, and looks forward to competing again next year.

Michael Bier and Diana Drushel

Mike Bier is a 1986 Heights High graduate and proud father of Natalie Bier.  Diana Drushel is a CH-UH City School District Parent & Community liaison.

Read More on Schools
Volume 16, Issue 7, Posted 12:55 PM, 06.12.2023