Scholastic Bowl at Genesee Community College Brings Out the Best

Participants in the annual Scholastic Bowl mirror the values of tournament host Genesee Community College by striving for intellectual brilliance in a competitive environment, according to a key figure in the program's development.

"These students display academic excellence, a competitive fire and the desire to be the best and the brightest," said Bob Knipe, the college's dean of Learning Technologies. "And that's what Genesee is all about."

Knipe made his comments as he accepted a plaque from Scholastic Bowl sponsors following the competition's final round, which was taped at Genesee's production studio in the Conable Technology Building.

The championship match featured a spirited battle among Akron, Alexander and Le Roy - finalists from the 12 high schools who competed over the course of the six-week series. Akron's team of senior Candace Morrison, juniors Jeff Folger and Alex Ruch and freshman Grace Cannon prevailed by a mere 10 points over Alexander after a successful challenge to one of the closing round's answers by coach Mary Borden.

Members of the Alexander team, all seniors, were Kelly Duval, Ryan Fleming, Brett Podkanowicz and Kyle Cox. Their coach is Todd Chamberlain. Coaches Betty Gugino and Chris Cappotelli guided the Le Roy team of seniors Derek Tesch and Janessa Shearer, junior Jeff Rizzo and sophomore Chris Pursel.

Akron coach Borden, a math teacher at the Erie County school for 31 years and the team's coach since Scholastic Bowl began 18 years ago, said the students who take part in the competition are "scholar-athletes" in their own right."They deserve the support from faculty and students. It's one of the few opportunities for kids who love to learn to go beyond the classroom. You've got your mock trials but this is really competitive."

She knows all about competition as she was part of her school's "It's Academic" team in the early 1970's and coached her sons while at Akron. "I also coach varsity field hockey at Akron and this is just as exciting," she added.

Scholastic Bowl has flourished thanks to its primary sponsors, Genesee Valley BOCES, Pepsi-Cola of Batavia, Batavia Daily News and Genesee Community College. It begins in early January each year and features fast-paced "round robin" matches among the 12 participating schools.

Other schools that fielded teams were Notre Dame, Byron-Bergen, Batavia, Pavilion, Pembroke, Attica, Alden, Elba and Oakfield-Alabama. Cash prizes, courtesy of Pepsi-Cola, were awarded to the three finalists and the next four schools in the standings. Those four schools were Attica, Alden, O-A and B-B.

"The Scholastic Bowl is exciting, fun and a great educational opportunity," said Kathy Jursted of Genesee Valley BOCES, who serves as a co-supervisor for the tournament. "I've witnessed many students come in as freshmen and it's neat to see them grow (as they continue in the competition)."

Jursted is joined by Kathe Hartnett, chairperson of the Enrichment Department at BOCES, the Scholastic Bowl coordinator, and other BOCES appointees, Jonathan Colby, co-supervisor, and Terry Fritts, who has been the show's moderator for 16 of the 18 years.

Genesee Community College also plays an essential role in the program's production. The college provides studio facilities, staff, equipment, technical and logistic support for production, under the supervision of Barry Chow, director of Learning Technology Services. Faculty members serve as judges and Genesee students enrolled in Communication and Mass Media earn valuable experience - and a paycheck - as camera operators and production assistants.

All in all, it's a team effort - school districts, the community and Genesee Community College - that keeps Scholastic Bowl in the public eye. Each show is televised on Time-Warner Cable 15, the educational access channel, within a week of the actual competition.

Ultimately, it's the students, many of whom have aspirations of becoming lawyers or engineers, who are the winners, regardless of the score.

"I love the academic competition," said Folger, a star on the Akron team since the eighth grade. "I'm not good at sports, so this is my outlet. Tonight was intense; the most intense match of any competition yet."

Editor's note: Photographs of the Scholastic Bowl participants from yesterday's final round of the tournament can be obtained by calling Donna Rae Sutherland at 343-0055, Ext. 6616.