2009 Nationals - Kevin Wagner's Memories

The following recollections were written by Kevin Wagner of the national championship team from Owasso, OK.

We came into Nationals having a real hunger to win! It was only our quizzers’ second full year in quiz, and we knew that we were going against a lot of teams with more experience. So we figured the best way to counter experience was with preparation! I had earned my Master Memorization Award by the first week of November. Josh, Jesse and Daniel had all earned theirs before the New Year. But even so, as late as December of the GEPCP season, we still didn’t know where the hit points were on questions, seriously!

Former #1 quizzer over Luke, Michael Pearson, helped change all that! He spent a few days at our before Christmas, and taught my boys where the hit points were. It took a couple of tournaments to figure out the new system, but in February, we finally broke through! We went undefeated to win the South Texas Invitational, and that’s when the roll began. We won James River. Little did we know at that time that we wouldn’t lose any more games that season!

We averaged 313 points per game at Districts. 268 at Regionals. 253 at the James River Pre-Nats. At that point, we knew we were ready! During Monday’s Preliminary Rounds at Nationals, we did our best to make sure we didn’t peak too early. I remember that day, Daniel even outscored his big brothers! We all had a great sleep on Monday night, and woke up hungry to quiz on Tuesday morning.

We just took things round by round, game by game, excited to see how things would all work out in the end. Our first big win on Tuesday came in Round 3 against James River–we won by 255! That early win took our confidence and momentum to another level, that we used to just propel us through the 9 rounds on Tuesday.

I remember Round 5 against Grant Warnock’s (#1 quizzer of the year over GEPCP) team from Bridgeville, PA. We’d played them in January at Friendship, and not only had they beaten us, but Grant had dropped a perfect game on the boys–the only one all year against us! Not this time. We won by 125, and I remember that felt really good.

Then it was off to Round 6 against Jared Burkhalter (#1 quizzer the year before over Acts). So it was back to back rounds against #1 quizzers! But we won by 190, and that too felt really good.

Round 7 saw us against Manassas, and it ended up being our biggest margin of victory of Nationals–380! Those 3 rounds–5, 6 and 7–were, I believe, the best 3 consecutive rounds we had that year!

We finished Tuesday undefeated, and woke up ready for the 8 rounds on Wednesday. Josh was playing consistently well, quizzing out almost every round. Jesse too–he also had quizzed out almost every round. I could tell that their National’s experiences from the year before was really helping them. But part-way through Wednesday, I could see that Daniel’s stellar play earlier in the week was starting to wane. He was still playing well, but I could see he was starting to get tired. The rounds were wearing on him.

But his brothers were there to pick him up! We continued to roll on through lunch, and got to the second last match of the day–against the team we knew better than any other–Christian Chapel, from our Tulsa League! Jesse hit, I think, 4 of the first 5 questions, or something like that, and we thought we were on a roll. But…then we slowed down, and Christian Chapel, especially Alyssa Batchelder, came on strong! Josh and Daniel just couldn’t get in, and when Alyssa quizzed out–well, it got really close! It came down to question 20. Josh and Daniel were still in the game, and we knew that whoever got the last hit would likely win the game. They got the hit! I still remember the question: “What celebration is mentioned?” Their quizzer got “cele…” I thought for sure we had lost! But when he couldn’t pull “New Moon”, we got the reread and won! I remember turning around and saw my friend, Jim Karnes, Heather Karnes’ (3rd chair for Bothell) dad, walking out of the room. I didn’t realize the significance of it at the time, but later I sure did! He was eager to see if we would lose, because he knew that Bothell needed us to lose to keep them in the hunt. But the boys pulled it out, in one of 2 matches that year that would go down to the wire…

The last match on Wednesday was against Briargate, the 2-time defending National Champions. We ended up winning that match too. Whenever you can beat a Greg House-coached team at Nationals, that’s a win to savor, because of his unparalleled success.

Two more matches left. Undefeated so far. We knew that if we won our first game Thursday morning, we would win Nationals. It was against Portage, the very same team that had given Bothell one of their 2 losses to that point. We wondered how we would fare against the giant-killers. Josh Turner was Portage’s captain, and he had been a friend of ours since Josh’s very first tournament ever, at James River over Romans/James. The boys came out firing. It looked like the game was in control, until some of the week’s fatigue took it’s toll on Daniel. He got a great hit on a mid-round 30 that would have sealed the game, but…he missed what would have been a gimme for him earlier in the week. Even so, a couple questions later, I did that math and realized we had won–both the game, and Nationals! I remember calling a time out and smiling an ear-to-ear smile back at the boys, telling that they had just clinched! When the game ended, I remember Josh crying, and hugs all around–it was way too fun!

For me, the last round, which was an epic Clash of the Titans against Bothell, was kind of a daze. I know the boys wanted to win badly and go undefeated, but for me, I was just happy that we had clinched the championship. The game came down to the last question. Brandon Duffy played a great match, scoring 140, which was the most anyone put down on us all tourney. Josh quizzed out on question 19, and once again it came down to the last question! Jesse and Daniel against Jenna-Jo and Heather. Jenna-Jo got the hit on an “According to” 10-pointer. It was a 2 part answer over the whole portion. She couldn’t pull it, Jesse got the reread from Ephesians 2:1, and it was over. To this day, all of us always smile at each other when we hear that verse read in church! It brings back such great memories!

It meant so much to us that we were able to win that game in Richard Ely’s room. He’s been our friend from our Region since day 1. When he announced the final score he called us the “Undefeated National Champions!” It was at that point that I realized that, yeah, it was pretty special for us to win that last game!

Quizzing still wasn’t over yet. Josh went on to win his second straight Quoting Bee. Daniel went on to take second in the Individual Tournament. Jesse and Josh quizzed great in the East-West match at the Banquet. But winning that first championship in the way we did, that was pretty special!