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After decorating Charlie Brown's Christmas tree, what carol do all the children sing?

Which light alkali metal with atomic number 3 is used to treat mood disorders?

Name the brother of Jocasta who becomes king after Oedipus' awful secret is revealed.

Most folks can only scratch their heads at these questions, but Knowledge Bowl team members at R.A. Long and Mark Morris high schools thrive at answering them under pressure.

Both teams are advancing to the statewide Knowledge Bowl tournament Saturday — a monumental accomplishment considering Knowledge Bowl was among the extracurricular activities cut when the Longview School District slashed its budget by $5 million last year. The program costs about $3,000 for each team, most of which pays the stipend of a faculty advisor.

Dedicated parents and students at both schools rallied to save the program. Parents stepped up to volunteer as coaches at both schools, and students held practices despite the program's uncertain future.

The six members of the Mark Morris team raised money to hire back their regular coach, physics teacher Steve Powell, to help them prepare for the state competition after winning regionals. R.A. Long placed second at the regional conference. Booster clubs at both schools are helping pay student's trips to state in the Tri Cities area this weekend.

"What's kept it together is we have kids that wanted to compete," said Sherry Hamill, mother of a R.A. Long Knowledge Bowl member, junior James Hamill.

"They didn't get that memo," said R.A. Long parent Jodi Kirkpatrick of her team's reaction to cutting the program.

Hamill, the volunteer coach for R.A. Long's six-member team, said she never attended a Knowledge Bowl competition before this year. Now, she meets once a week with students to read and review their fact sheets.

"It's like hanging out with kids every week playing Trivial Pursuit," she said. R.A. Long students practice without timing buzzers, and most practice questions are downloaded off the Internet for free, she said.

Students said they enjoy Knowledge Bowl because it teaches them new things.

Mark Morris senior Kaitlyn Lee, 17, said she likes the competitions because the questions are unpredictable. They can relate to a wide range of subjects, but often include math, science, history, theology and literature. Teams have 15 seconds to answer a question.

"It's so intense, and you're really focused on the question you're answering," she said.

R.A. Long junior Tyler McIntosh, 17, said the club has helped him boost his grades from a 3.2 to 3.8 GPA this year. Students said they read Wikipedia to learn more about random subjects, watch the History Channel and pay extra attention during class to help them succeed at Knowledge Bowl.

Mark Morris senior Jillian Avalon, 18, looks for patterns in the questions at competitions and learns about certain topics that keep resurfacing. For example, her team has received a lot of questions about 19th century authors Edgar Allan Poe and Charles Dickens.

"Some of us took it upon ourselves to read everything we can about those authors that we can find," she said.

R.A. Long junior James Hamill, 16, said it takes a certain curiosity about the world to be successful at Knowledge Bowl.

"You have to pay attention to everything around you and try to remember as much as possible," he said.

Oh, and the answers to those questions:

The Christmas Carol: "Hark The Herald Angels Sing"

The metal to treat mood disorders? Lithium

Finally, the brother of Jocasta? Creon.


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