This year alone, the team easily swept the competition in the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association (OSSAA) Class 2A State Tournament, held at Redlands Community College in El Reno Feb. 6.
The Rock Creek team defeated Wright City in Round 1, Porter Consolidated in Round 2 and Okarche in Rounds 3A and 6 to win the competition.
Academic Bowl advisor Marla St. John said the team beat every competitor by a large margin, more than tripling Porter Consolidated’s score, 270 to 60, and doubling Okarche’s score in the finals, 300 to 150.
“They did very well,” St. John said. “Bryan County has traditionally been very good in State competition.”
Rock Creek seniors Zach Jamison, Jordan Bishop and captain Kyle Whittington, junior Rae Anne Klement and sophomore Tracey Hickman played on the group’s State team.
Rock Creek’s high school Academic Bowl team includes 15 members. Additional team members are juniors Bradley Robinson, Herlinda Marsh and Danielle Wilcox, sophomores Justin Bishop and Brandon Wilcox and freshmen Dylan Powell, Patrick Hawkins, Ale Marsh, Brandi Lee and Kasey Whittington.
St. John said the state competition includes all six school classifications and Rock Creek competes in 2A. Overall, 48 teams compete, with eight teams in each class.
Most 2A schools do not offer enough art, music and literature because they don’t have as much access as larger schools, St. John said. Her students concentrate on those areas independently in Academic Bowl, adding that the members are strong in humanities. They also cover world religions and philosophies.
In OSSAA sanctioned competitions, Rock Creek became District champions in October and later defeated Stuart High School during Regionals in November.
Rock Creek was one of four schools that qualified to compete in Area competitions in January. The team lost to Wright City in the finals, but still qualified for State.
Rock Creek has done well in past OSSAA State competitions. They won in 2006, 2004 and 2003, and was runner-up in 2009 and 2005. They placed third in 2008 and fifth in 2007.
In eight years, Rock Creek has had six All-State Academic Bowl honorees and one All-State Honorable Mention honorees, St. John said.
Honorees are selected through a nomination process. Teachers are allowed to nominate two seniors each year. The selection committee does not acknowledge class or size in their decisions.
In addition to receiving the Class 2A State title, the Rock Creek team was the Blue River Conference Champion in November, and captain Kyle Whittington was named MVP of the conference.
Blue River Conference schools include Achille, Bennington, Boswell, Caddo, Calera, Colbert, Coleman, Milburn, Tushka, Silo and Rock Creek.
In the Blue River Conference, Rock Creek competed against other teams every Wednesday from August to November.
The team was also the Stigler Brain Bowl champions in January, playing against 3A and 4A schools.
St. John said Academic Bowl is the second-highest participation activity after basketball in Oklahoma, with more than 410 schools involved.
St. John, who also teaches English, has been coaching high school quiz bowl for 10 years since 2001 and junior high since 1996, with the exception of three years. She also used to teach humanities.
She is the current Oklahoma Academic Coaches Association president and has been a member of the OSSAA Academic Bowl Advisory Committee for seven years.
St. John said the school is very supportive of Academic Bowl, allowing it to be offered as a class for high school and junior high students.
“I’ve taught for 36 years. Academic Bowl brings teaching to life when it comes to learning,” St. John said, adding that her students are ready to sample any topic and are interested in everything.
What students learn in Academic Bowl also reinforces what students learn in their other classes across curriculum, which allows students to make intelligent guesses if they do not know the exact answers, St. John said.
Rock Creek Academic State members said they have enjoyed competing as well as learning.
“Academic Bowl is good for small schools to have,” said Jamison, who is best in science and mythology. He added that the team has competed against and is on par with larger teams. “We have a good coach. We wouldn’t have gone far without her.”
Whittington, who has been captain for one year, enjoys playing the games and competing against smart teams. Porter and Wright City are often challenging for Rock Creek to beat at the State level, he said.
However, he said being the captain is generally not a fun task because you are in charge of selecting the speed rounds and leading your team. If you choose incorrectly, it’s your responsibility.
His best topics are art, mythology, bones and off-the-wall information.
Hickman, who likes math, history and sports, said what he enjoys most about competition is getting to meet new people.
He said Academic Bowl “gives small schools a chance to go farther in life.” Also, it keeps them on their toes and encourages them to continually search for information.
Bishop said he learns a lot from Academic Bowl and gets to cover a wider range or literature and classical music. He added that it is helping him in his school studies.
Bishop’s best topics are history, the Bible, off-the-wall information, literature and art.
Klement said Academic Bowl allows her to learn information she otherwise wouldn’t get the chance to learn.
“It gets you to think and learn information and put it into use,” which helps you remember it, said Klement, who likes humanities and spelling.
“The kids are amazing. They do a lot [of studying] on their own,” St. John said of her Academic Bowl students. “They’re more aware than others. They listen for things that might be questions.
Academic Bowl also covers current events, which provides more learning experiences for her students, St. John said.
“They have a reason to remember,” she said of her students’ constant search for information.
Whittington said he learned a lot from a trip he took to Europe in 2008 through the “People to People” student ambassador program. For one month during the summer, he traveled across parts of Europe, including France, Italy and Greece.
He visited Paris and Venice and stayed with an Italian family for three days. He also saw the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
When Whittington visited the Louvre museum, he recognized a painting that he had learned about in Academic Bowl — “Odalisque” by Ingres.
St. John said the teams’ success is also indicative of Rock Creek’s good curriculum.
“Our faculty and administration support us 100 percent,” as well as search for potential questions, she said. “We’re here to learn.”
Rock Creek’s season for the school year is now over, so she is training ninth grade team members who haven’t got a chance to play in games.
Rock Creek has sixth and seventh, seventh and eighth, eighth and ninth, and tenth through twelfth teams.
She said younger team members compete in competitions through the Oklahoma Junior Academic Bowl Association to help them prepare for the high school team.
“Competition is one thing, learning is another,” St. John said. “It’s (Academic Bowl) is the best thing that we have, as far as academics.”
“Rock Creek likes to be the best, no matter the activity,” she said, adding that many of the team members are also involved in sports and other organizations. “It’s tough sometimes to share kids, but we get along well.”