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Team Aconcagua

Timeframe: (2001-2003ish)

In high school, I was part of our high school Academic Challenge club. We participated in quiz bowl tournaments and the Science Bowl/Ocean Science Bowl tournaments. While I could probably go on and on about the crazy adventures we had, one particular tournament stood out to me. While in science tournaments, I was hot stuff (read: big nerd who could answer really nerdy questions really really quickly), I was only pretty good at general trivia. So, at this one tournament at Mills College, I was on the B team while our team hotshots were on the A team.

We were of course having fun, knowing that we probably wouldn’t take top prize but we would still do pretty well. Our team consisted of myself (then, a junior in high school), a senior (J. Tsai), a sophomore (J. Cheng) who rounded out our useless academic knowledge with “more practical” knowledge in sports :), and a hotshot freshman (K. Koai) who I had known in Junior High pre-growth spurt and who was now the tallest (and possibly loudest) member of the team.

Quiz bowl tournaments come in many different flavors with many different rules. This was a quiz bowl format which used a bonus format whereby a tossup question is “tossed” to every contestant and the team with the first correct response was then offered a bonus question which allowed conferral between the team members (and a lot more points!).

For one of the bonus questions, our team was given a question which asked for the name of a mountain in South America with certain attributes — the specifics of the question, clearly, are lost to time. The amusing thing, however, was that none of us knew the answer. In our conferral we panicked — saying random names like “Mount Titicaca” and “Mount South America”. I think we finally went with “Mt. Andes” or something really stupid, and as I was the team captain, it was my job to inform the moderator of our answer. Before I said it, though, something clicked inside my head, and instead of saying “Mt. Andes”, I blurted “Mount Aconcagua” which I had suddenly remembered was the tallest mount in South America.

My team was in shock. “Mount Aconcagua? What the #$*#!?” I too, was somewhat shocked at the spontaneity of my response. I grimaced, waiting for the moderator to tell me that I was wrong. To my surprise, I was correct. Bemused smiles were suddenly on the faces of all of our teammates. Confused and somewhat shocked looks were on the faces of our opponents.

And hence, Team Aconcagua was born. That tournament witnessed two or three more instances of our spontaneous wisdom — allowing us to almost (but not quite…) trounce even the A-team when we faced them. We even competed together (although rarely all four of us together at once) in several other tournaments, and though we were never the champions of any tournament, the four of us always made random references to our victory as “Team Aconcauga”.

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