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Russell High School’s quick recall team finished 19 out of 224 schools in the 2021 High School National Quiz Bowl Tournament, which took place on Saturday and Sunday.

The team finished with Russell’s highest finish, despite team members having to leave at different stages of the tournament.

The team of four consisted of seniors Ayog Prasad and Jackson Raich, junior Jacob Nance and sophomore Arnav Dharmagadda. The team is coached by Russell High School teachers Kirk Barnett, Susan Williams, Bryan Enders and Robert Templeton.

When inclement weather changed Russell’s commencement plans, the two seniors and Nance all had to bow out in order to make the ceremony. This left Dharmagadda to play as a one-man team against the nation’s best teams of four.

Coach Kirk Barnett said Dharmagadda continued to play well, but that’s a lot to ask of anyone. Raich was able to play through round 11 and was the first to duck out. Barnett said Prasad stepped up and proved he was among the nation’s best.

Prasad, the captain of the team, was named an All-Star for correctly answering 50 toss-up questions in the preliminary rounds. Thirteen of the questions were for "power," which means the questions were answered early and earned extra points. Prasad was ranked sixth in the nation following the individual tournament earlier in the year.

Barnett said Prasad was the first from Russell to be named to the varsity team. Underclassmen have been named to the underclassman team.

Prasad played through round 14 and quickly put on his cap and gown “and jumped in line,” Barnett said. Nance also departed to watch his brother graduate.

The team’s goal was to finish in the top 20, which they achieved, even without their full team present until the end. Barnett said one more win would have put them in 12th place.

“The more we played, the stronger they got,” Barnett said. “Saturday, they played well, but Sunday was phenominal.”

The Quiz Bowl competition was held via Zoom and students used buzzers to answer questions in literature, history, mythology, social science, geography, math, science, sports and popular culture.

The team had been working on improving their abilities in arts and humanities. Barnett said they did quite well and the work paid off.

Teams from 32 states were joined by teams from China, Singapore and South Korea for the fast-paced, academic competition. Russell was one of six teams from Kentucky.

The four students used their fast thinking and bank of knowledge to come through the preliminary rounds with a 5-3 record and qualified to the playoffs.

The Red Devils defeated both La Jolla and Lowell from California and lost to Centennial A out of Maryland in the playoffs. Barnett said their highlight was almost upsetting University Lab out of Illinois, which ended up being the second-place team.

Russell’s 19th-place finish was better than any other Kentucky team in the championships. The second closest Kentucky finisher was Paul Lawrence Dunbar, which ranked 73rd.

The team continues their season this weekend at PACE, which is a more selective competition that will include many of the same teams as the weekend prior. RHS is in the small school division and Barnett said are the favorites to win.

Following PACE, Prasad and Raich will compete on the Kentucky All-Star team in the National All-Star Academic Tournament. Each state names a four-person team comprised of the top four players in the state. Raich and Prasad are two of the four. The competition will take place at the end of June.

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