The fifth annual High Schools Scholastic Bowl in Glendale was proof positive that even the sharpest minds on campus can be stumped by that dreaded mathematical exercise called the word problem.
The game-show-style event, held at Glendale High School on Wednesday night, was won easily by Crescenta Valley High for the second consecutive year. The event pitted teams of four top students from each of the three local high schools in an academic duel, racing to answer 50 brain-teasing questions on science, literature, the arts, social sciences and math.
The latter subject proved difficult not only for the teams--all of whom failed to produce a correct answer on problems concerning the distance traveled by a bouncing ball, the number of coins in a collection, and the number of worms two gardeners can dig up--but also for television weatherman Fritz Coleman, who emceed the event.
At one point, Coleman jokingly told the panel of judges, "Don't laugh at me," as he struggled to read a math problem.
"Those math formulas were difficult," said Coleman after the event. "Not only was I trying not to fumble them and look stupid, but I had flashes in my mind of all the tests I took when I was back in high school."
Crescenta Valley scored a total of 81 points to take all three trophies in the contest for the quiz portion, the essay portion and the overall competition, making it the only school to sweep the event since its inception in 1991.
Hoover High placed second and Glendale High third. Nearly 400 students and parents attended.
"Everybody's pretty much floating on a cloud," Pat Jones, faculty adviser to the Crescenta Valley team, said of the school's victory. "We really dominated this year. In previous years, the balance would shift from one team to another, but we were never behind."
Chris Skinnell, a member of Crescenta Valley's winning team, said his school's success was not due to heavy studying, but a huge reservoir of data in the students' heads.
"It isn't really the kind of event you can study for. These are things we've all learned in class through the years up until now," said Skinnell, a senior who also took part in the event in his freshman and junior years. "You also have to be able to answer quickly. It's as much reflexes as it is memory."
District officials said they founded the Scholastic Bowl to help showcase the talents of academically inclined students, who had traditionally received less exposure on campus than those who participate in sports.
This year, about 25 students from each school tried out for the Scholastic Bowl team, and the four team members were selected through on-campus quizzes.
"The college-bound students are especially attracted to it," said George Hiller, faculty adviser for the Glendale High team. "They're very competitive when they try out for the team. It's very prestigious, and they can put it on their resume for college."