As students, one by one, were honored for academic achievements at last week's Kaneland School District Board meeting, a buzz began to build about a particular group of teens who were not yet at the event.
Then, they arrived, holding IHSA regional championship plaques and sharing the news that Kaneland's scholastic bowl team had won a regional title. It was a rare moment of celebration for a team that doesn't necessarily have the opportunity to bask in such glory on a regular basis.
Kaneland went on to place second to state powerhouse Rockford Auburn in the sectional championship, ending a season ranked 17th in the state by a poll of coaches from scholastic bowl teams. Coach Ken Dentino said he was "exceedingly impressed with what this talented team has earned."
"This is a rare accomplishment for a school of our size," Dentino said.
Four team members – seniors Nic Likeum, Muneeb Rehman, Ethan Witt and Matt Kalinowski – spoke about what it's like to go up against Auburn, as well as what it's like to be on the team and how others who might be interested could benefit by joining.
Likeum said it isn't easy when a team is in a match against Auburn, a team that is making its 13th consecutive trip to the state tournament.
"They buzz in when you're still trying to formulate what they are asking for," Likeum said.
"It was a complete slaughter," said Rehman, though the team members could smile because it was a memorable trip to get to that match.
The scholastic bowl is an academic competition in which team members score points by answering questions. Witt described the victory against Cary-Grove as difficult, with Kaneland needing to rally. He credited Likeum for buzzing in successfully to a tossup question that gave Kaneland the ability to pull through.
Witt, Likeum, Rehman and Kalinowski spoke of their college aspirations.
Witt, sporting a Massachusetts Institute of Technology shirt, said he would be studying aerospace engineering at that school. Likeum, headed to the Illinois Institute of Technology, also aims to study engineering. Rehman, who said he is undecided as far as his college choice, will go into bioengineering. Kalinowski said he, too, was undecided. He aims to study video game designing.
All four said they would recommend the scholastic bowl experience to others. Each described a particular strength. Rehman said he is best with questions about foreign history and science, specifically biology. Likeum said he enjoys questions about chemistry and law. Witt said he does well with math and physics questions. Kalinowski said he does well with subjects such as mythology and pop culture.
But they said not all questions are impossibly difficult. Kalinowski said there were several pop culture questions, and Rahman agreed, saying he found "a surprisingly large amount of 'Simpsons' questions."
• Al Lagattolla is the news editor of the Kane County Chronicle. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.