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Ola plays host to scholastic tournaments

Photo by Hugh Osteen

Photo by Hugh Osteen

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

Ola High School's Social Studies Department Chair, Jeff Burn, is expecting to have a good turnout at the 2011 Georgia Academic Team Association (GATA) Varsity Tournament.

Burn said he is expecting 40 teams to compete at Ola, on Saturday, in the statewide quiz bowl championship for 3A-5A varsity teams. The contest is the latest of scholastic competitions held at the high school in east McDonough.

The school hosted the 2011 GATA Junior Varsity State Championship on Feb. 26, he said. The competition included 55 teams from across the state.

On March 5, the school played host to the Inaugural Georgia History Bee and Bowl. The competition is the first-ever Georgia qualifier for the newly-formed National History Bee and Bowl. Burn said the history quiz tournament was created this year by David Madden, a former Jeopardy champion who is using his winnings to fund the national contest.

"He envisions it as being bigger than Spelling Bee and Geography Bee," said Burn.

Madden -- the executive director of National History Bee and Bowl, based out of Tenafly, N.J.- said he set up a pilot tournament for students in New Jersey about a year ago and saw potential in having nationwide tournaments for individual students and teams.

The executive director said his organization would invite to national competition in April, the top individuals and teams who qualify with their regional wins. There are currently 32 state tournaments across the country. He said teams who qualify in bowl tournaments would compete in finals on April 16, and bee qualifiers would compete in finals on April 17.

Madden reported that Henry County earned qualifying spots in the state bee tournament.

C.J. Padgett, a junior at Union Grove High School, and Austin Miller, a junior at Ola High School, qualified for nationals. Ola High School and Union Grove High School also had bowl teams to qualify for national competition.

Padgett was the sole player for the Union Grove bowl team, according to Jeff Burn. Padgett was coached by Karen Camp, an English and social studies teacher at Union Grove.

At Ola, Burn coached junior varsity and varsity bowl teams that qualified for nationals. He said the varsity bowl team -- Austin Miller, Hailey Wiggins, Grant Walker, and Eric Kaiser -- finished in the top eight overall at state-level qualifiers. Team members Calvin Vincent, David Marinaccio, Simon Luu, and Jacob Pogioli finished second for Ola's junior varsity bowl team.

National History Bee and Bowl Executive Director David Madden was on hand in the qualifying round at Ola, in the role of tournament director. He said he holds bachelors and masters degrees in international relations, from Princeton University, and a masters from the University of Berlin in Berlin, Germany.

"My goal for this year is to get off the ground, and have a great first year," said Madden. "For the future, I'd like to keep expanding this to as many schools as possible. There are 36,000 schools across the country and my ideal would be to have them all participate."

Playoff matches for the bowl nationals will be at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. And the finals for the bee are planned to be held at Mount Vernon in Washington, D.C. To learn more, visit www.historybee.com.