Cluster Finalists Compete in GeograBee; Cohen ’04 Emerges as Victor in Quiz Bowl

Last Tuesday in the Upper Right dining hall, Sam Cohen ’04 of the Pine Knoll Cluster defeated five other competitors in the seventh annual Phillips Academy GeograBee. Other winners in the event included second place finisher Day Student Scott Silverstein ’04 and third place Adam Kapor ’04 of the Abbot Cluster. The GeograBee was instituted seven years ago and has since evolved as an opportunity to raise interest in geography and to promote dorm and cluster pride. Until recently, the GeograBee was sponsored by former Andover faculty member Harrison McCann. Since Mr. McCann’s retirement, the GeograBee has been orchestrated by International Students Coordinator Aya Murata. However, because Ms. Murata is on maternity leave this year, Mr. McCann returned to coordinate the event. Dean of Community and Multicultural Development Bobby Edwards assumed the role as score keeper, and Chair of the History Department Victor Henningsen moderated the competition. “The GeograBee is the only all school event that is academic in nature,” Mr. McCann said. “We are an academic institution so it makes sense that at least one event on campus should depend on intellect not brawn.” “[It] is an opportunity for kids to learn something new about geography and participate in a fun activity during the dreary winter term,” Ms. Murata added. Every dorm on campus has a Geograbee night to determine a representative to compete in the cluster competition. Dorms who have 100% participation in the first phase of the contest are awarded a pizza munch and the cluster with the greatest participation wins a special cluster munch. This year, all but two dorms achieved 100% participation. To determine the cluster prize, judges were forced to look at the percentage of correct answers submitted by each cluster. For the third year in a row, West Quad South took the cluster prize, with Pine Knoll and Flagstaff close behind. Winners from the cluster finals represent their cluster at the Geograbee finals and day students also produce a champion to compete in the finals. Besides Cohen, Silverstein, and Kapor, Celia Alexander ’04 competed for Flagstaff, Di Wu ’04 represented West Quad North, and Peter Casey ’06 participated for West Quad South. Last year’s champion Silverstein competed in the GeograBee for his third time last week. “I really knew what to expect, so I didn’t have to be nervous,” he said. “I’ve always enjoyed buzzer-war type competitions.” Despite having lost to Cohen, Silverstein remained a good sport about his defeat and is already looking forward to next year’s event. “It was pretty tough this year,” he said. “I can’t wait to battle it out with Sam again next year. There are a lot of people on campus who have a passion for geography and this competition is just a lot of fun for us.” Although Casey did not answer a question correctly in this year’s GeograBee, he has plenty of time to improve as a junior. “I was intimidated by the assertiveness for the older kids in the first few questions,” Casey said. “As the contest wore on, I loosed up a bit and started to enjoy it. I hope I will get to continue and do better next year.” Although Ms. Murata has worked to make the geography questions in the dorm and cluster rounds easier in the last few years, competitors found the questions in the finals unusually difficult this year. The entire panel was stumped by such questions as “What is the largest natural arch in the world?” (the Rainbow Bridge in Utah), “Which European country has the oldest national flag?” (Denmark), and “Which oil-rich country used to be the world’s primary producer of dates?” (Iraq). “In general the questions were a lot harder then they have been in years past,” noted Silverstein. “There were quite a few questions which no one could answer.” The Geograbee began after Nels Frye ‘99 joined PA after spending a year at Northfield Mount Hermon where a similar contest was held. He approached former International Students Coordinator McCann who worked to establish the competition. Interest increased in 2000 when dorms were given pizza incentives to have 100% participation. Mr. McCann notes that he has noticed a more enthusiastic response from the dorm faculty in recent years. “Everything was very orderly and many dorms went deep into the questions,” he said.” Despite the fact that kids are motivated more by their hunger for pizza than by their thirst for knowledge, I know that many dorms had a really fun night.” For the last two years, the finals have been held in Commons which has allowed the event to gain many spectators and encourage student interest.