Quiz teams load into Tech for TRASH contest

Rani Gupta

Knowing the name of the spacecraft in Return of the Jedi, Puff Daddy’s first No. 1 single and the title of the season finale of “The X-Files” might seem like useless knowledge.

But these questions marked the difference between victory and defeat for the 150 students who traveled to the Technological Institute this weekend for a national pop culture tournament.

Four members of Northwestern’s Quiz Bowl team competed in the third annual national championship, sponsored by Testing Recall About Strange Happenings (TRASH).

Regional meets, held in November, narrowed the national competition to 32 teams from around the country.

This year was the first time that NU’s Quiz Bowl, which primarily competes in tournaments testing academic knowledge, has participated in the TRASH nationals.

The NU team, named “Crouching Tyler, Hidden Flaxman” after team members Tyler Johnson and Robert Flaxman, went 7-4 during round-robin play on Saturday.

Questions were largely based on a buzz-in format, with topics covering music, movies, books, TV and sports.

NU survived the preliminary rounds and went on to compete for the championship against the 11 highest-scoring teams.

But the team went 0-5 on Sunday.

“We got matched up against a lot of top teams that were just flat-out better,” said Johnson, a Weinberg senior.

NU finished near the bottom of the finalists, placing 11th or 12th, with the final results remaining to be tallied.

University of California, Berkeley defeated the University of Oklahoma for the championship Sunday.

“It was a blow-out,” said Flaxman, a Speech freshman. “The breadth of knowledge of these guys was just ridiculous. I was just in awe of how quickly they got these questions.”

Although NU has hosted regional tournaments, this was the first national tournament held at the university.

Incoming Quiz Bowl President Mike Henninger, a Weinberg sophomore, put in the bid for the tournament this year to raise money for NU’s team.

Quiz Bowl will use the funds to go to more tournaments or to pay airfare for “nicer” tournaments, Henninger said.

Additionally, he said hosting the tournament “gains our program – which is fairly young – some recognition as being a serious program.”

The NU students who competed said they were happy with their finish, especially considering that some opposing teams were made up of graduate students.

“We played pretty well,” Flaxman said. “There are a lot of teams composed of 30-year-olds who have nothing better to do. We have less experience, and the questions are usually geared towards older people.”

Johnson said that having fun was more important than the results.

“When you get to these national tournaments, a lot of the people are really hardcore, but there’s no pressure with us,” Johnson said. “We could have gone 0-16 and we would have had a great time.”