80 high school and middle school students from across the country gathered in Illinois on Sunday, April 3 to compete in a Quiz Bowl championship. Outlasting all other competitors, Karsten Rynearson ’22 won The Individual Player National Championship Tournament (IPNCT) high school division. Rynearson placed 1st in Literature and 3rd in Social Science, securing him the 1st place title overall among 53 competitors.
“I don’t know if I fully processed [the fact] yet. This has been something that I’ve wanted, since seventh grade, to see…They have this little page on the website, the Hall of Champions. I have wanted to be there for so long. And now I’m there,” said Rynearson.
According to IPNCT’s website The Individual Player National Championship Tournament is a quiz bowl competition that pits students without the support of their teammates. Players compete in small groups over several rounds and after 5 rounds, the top players compete in the championship round, where players are eliminated one by one until a champion emerges.
Rynearson first started competing in fifth grade, when Quiz Bowl aligned with his interests. According to Rynearson, his experience competing at a local tournament prompted him to continue participating in bigger events.
“I started playing in fifth grade. There was an invitational tournament run by the local middle school near me where I live in Connecticut. When I was younger, I always loved these reference sourcebooks with a bunch of facts about the Presidents. So it was very much a fun way to apply all the things that I learned and read into something fun, exciting, and competitive. So it seemed like a natural fit, and we won that tournament, and I have been involved since,” said Rynearson.
As a friend and teammate, Nicholas Donnellan ’23 expressed admiration and appreciation towards Karsten’s victory and his abilities as a teammate.
Donnellan said, “Karsten is very talented at quiz bowl. He’s just insane at the level he can recall information. You could be talking about some obscure French poet from the 1840s, and he knows within the first three lines of the question. It shows the dedication, with a lot of studying, and the amount of effort he has put in to get to that level of quiz bowl, and it’s reflected in his status in the community. Many people look up to Karsten as a leader at this point. His hard work has definitely paid off. Karsten is also a very amiable person, he gets along with people, he is always happy about others, and he’s done a good job leading the club over the past two years.”
Andover has also impacted Rynearson’s quiz bowl game in positive ways. Rynearson expressed that finding and engaging with his queer community at Andover has helped him reshape his relationship to quiz bowl.
“Honestly, coming to Andover has also helped me realize I had a very unhealthy relationship with quiz bowl before I came to the school, where it was very much a core part of my self-worth and my self-perception. My results in this behavior were very self-defining and critical. But then, being involved in and finding a community here, specifically a queer community, was honestly really important in the sense that I was able to go and play tournaments with the understanding that no matter what happened, there would be a group of people who would be there for me, and that’s always been true,” said Rynearson.
Rynearson continued, “I won the national finals, and I did it in eyeliner and fake eyelashes, which seems like, okay, whatever. Why is this relevant? Because quiz bowl is intensely male-dominated and intensely straight-dominated. I actually spoke for a minute after I won for the crowd assembled about this, about why my win mattered so much to me. Throughout middle school and early years of high school, before coming into my identity, I felt an intense need to hide myself, my queer identity, and the expressiveness that came with that from the quiz bowl community.”
As Rynearson’s advisor and house counselor, Emma Staffaroni, English Instructor and Director of the Brace Center for Gender Studies, expressed her delight in Rynearson’s achievements.
“I’m proud of Karsten’s evolved relationship with Quiz Bowl; When he first arrived at Andover, it was the central pillar of his identity, but here at school, he has allowed himself to explore so many other facets of who he is. This national championship win represents even more of a triumph because it was achieved not at the expense of Karsten’s spirit and humanity, but because of them,” said Staffaroni.