Big Blue Quiz Team has high hopes in tourney after record season

The Hamilton Big Blue Academic Quiz Team heads into Saturday’s GMC Tournament on a nine-match win streak and hopes to finish strong its best season in school history.

The 15-3 record is six better than the team had last school year, and it bests the 11-7 school record by the 2017-18 team.

Head coach Mat Nicol challenged the seniors after last year’s 9-9 season that if they want to be better, they need to work in the offseason.

And that’s what they did. The team meet regularly at True West on Main Street over the offseason, at their homes, and put the work in.

“By the time they got back, they blew me away with what they wanted to do,” Nicol said, adding they wanted to have voluntary practice before the season and participate in two preseason tournaments “and I don’t think we ever, in school history, went to pre-season tournaments.”

They finished around .500 in those pre-season tournaments, but it wasn’t about winning. It was about priming the team and getting their minds into regular-season shape. It also gave them a barometer of where they were.

Their three losses were to the two best teams in the GMC. They lost in back-to-back matches to regular season champ Mason, which finished 17-1, and split matches with Fairfield, which finished 16-2 and second in the league.

While 15-3 is the best in Big Blue school history, the regular season league finish (third) was also the best place for the Academic Quiz Team.

“This season definitely empowered us a lot more, especially after our first few wins,” said senior Caleb Thomas. “Last year, even though we got a few wins to begin with, they were still shaky. But this year, we completely blew it out of the water.”

They beat Colerain (71-42, 74-22) and Lakota East (66-32, 65-43) in the first four matches of the season. Then they had back-to-back losses to Mason, came back to have solid wins over Sycamore and split a pair of matches with Fairfield before going on their nine-match win streak.

“We knew we could do better as a team, so we decided we were going to put in the extra effort in, as well as (coach) Nichol challenging us to put in that extra effort,” said senior Vincent Kiep. “So, we went though the offseason to make ourselves better.”

And it’s an honor to wear the Big Blue colors and represent Hamilton, Kiep said.

“We’re doing something that hasn’t been done in our school’s history, so it’s a big deal for us.”

They will play Sycamore and Middletown in the GMC tournament Saturday, and the expectation is to win. “I feel confident to beat whoever we play,” Kiep said.

Part of that confidence is Hamilton has embraced feeling like the underdog, said senior Eve Duggins. She said Hamilton, right or wrong, has a reputation for not being an affluent community as some neighboring districts and schools. The Academic Quiz Team is another chance to show those outside Hamilton “we are so much more than what people say that we are.”

“I feel like what makes us special outside of our respective talents is the fact that we all genuinely care about each other. Just outside of the teamwork aspect, we are close friends,” Duggins said. “I am very proud of our team, not just the seniors but the younger players, as well.”

The standard set by the 2023-24 Big Blue Academic Quiz Team is expected to be carried on, the senior leaders believe, with Duggins saying, “The team could be just as good, if not better.”

AQT GMC Tournament

The Academic Quiz Team GMC Tournament is set for 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Hamilton High School, 1165 Eaton Ave.

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