Fifth in the Nation: Karsten Rynearson ’22 Finds Joy and Self-Pride through Quiz Bowl Competition

On April 11, 112 competitors from across the United States competed in the Individual Player National Championship Quiz Bowl Tournament and answered questions on subjects like geography or current events. Karsten Rynearson ’22 placed fifth in this tournament. 

This competition held significance for Rynearson because for the first time on the national stage, he felt as though he could truly be himself. Wearing his hair up and putting on eyeliner for the competition, Rynearson wanted to do this not just for himself, but also for others who felt like they couldn’t be authentically themselves when competing in Quiz Bowl tournaments. 

“I didn’t have to play a role anymore of ‘Quiz Bowl Karsten.’ I just got to be me. And that made it a lot easier… And I just felt really happy that I got to do that. If anything, just going into that final, I wanted to do it for all the people in Quiz Bowl who might have been wanting to hide their identities in order to have clout within the community, because it just felt really good to drop that facade and just do things the way I wanted to do them,” said Rynearson. 

Rynearson played six rounds, where participants would try to “buzz out” and proceed to a higher level, in terms of seeding and players. The semi-finals involved skilled players, but Rynearson, with “very shockingly good game,” managed to be first to “buzz out” and advanced to the finals. In the final round, he was the fourth person eliminated, placing fifth in the country. For Rynearson, literature is his specialty.

“Specialism and knowing a lot about a certain area was really beneficial. So for me, that area has always been literature. I just really love reading and learning about books. So that distribution of questions really helps me get through a lot of the rounds, just being able to get points on things I just know about,” said Rynearson.

Usually, Quiz Bowl is a team game, but this was a specific instance where individual players competed in a National Championship tournament. Rynearson described his pride for the Andover Quiz Bowl club, which has won many tournaments and is ranked around the twenties in the country. 

Rynearson said, “Usually I played with the team, which we’ve done pretty well this season. In general, we won – we won, we’ve gotten mostly podium placements and pretty difficult tournaments. I’m pretty proud of us.”

As a boarder at Andover, Rynearson often had help from his friends and house counselors while studying packets. Even though studying for Quiz Bowl competitions has been “fun and satisfying,” preparing for the Quiz Bowl involved significant time. 

He said, “It’s a representation of the fact that I am able to, to some degree, have executive function. I’m sorry for that. And that makes me sound like I’m struggling, which I am. So I do enjoy studying for the Quiz Bowl. But it’s also like a process and it requires a lot of time investment.”

Rynearson began his Quiz Bowl career in fifth grade, and since then has accumulated over 3,000 flashcards to study from. In addition to this studying, he has attended Quiz Bowl summer programs to help prepare for competitions. 

“I would say, my past experience was really what I was like relying on here. Also, just like flashcards in the past, there’s just certain things I don’t forget. So that was helpful throughout,” said Rynearson.

Through many years of competing in team and individual tournaments, Quiz Bowl has become a big part of Rynearson’s life. He has found joy and passion in competing and hopes to keep participating in tournaments in the future. 

“And it’s just really wonderful to take the passions that I have in academics and translate that into this kind of game. I mean, it’s stressful, but I love it. It’s one of my favorite things to do. The team will keep competing. I’ll keep competing. I’m hoping to go back to this tournament next year and get to the top of that podium,” said Rynearson.