The Conway Junior High Quiz Bowl team’s first trip to nationals was a winner.

Eleven members competed and won at nationals last week at the sixth annual Junior National Academic Championship in New Orleans, La.

Coach Paula McKee said her team “loves the game.”

“I had 11 kids who are all really good. Everyone played and that makes us unique and reflects well on our school district,” McKee said.

McKee said though competition is over, her group wishes they could still have practice.

“When they get to be seniors we plan on going back,” she said. “There’s a national championship for the senior high division. My kids are very goal oriented and I could see them doing that.”

Championship highlights on the Quiz Bowl group’s website say Conway took a lead over Altamont, Ala., answering a question about the shootout at the OK Corral. Altamont took the lead in the close game after a Greek mythology question. Conway retook the lead with a question about Kurt Cobain, and Altamont led again with a question about the Nazi encoding machine, Enigma. Conway was back with a question about kerosene, and Altamont on a composer question. Conway identified North and South Korea as nations that have been at war since a 1953 cease-fire. Conway won 365 to 350. Organizers said it
was the all-time record for lead changing hands.

The last game in the New Orleans finals brought Conway facing another Arkansas team, Hazen Middle School.

Conway won 330 to 315 with an audio clue when members identified “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”

“Winning a national championship in quiz bowl is just another indication of the quality of students, teachers, parents, and community that are part of Conway Public Schools,” said Superintendent Dr. Greg Murry. “We are so very proud of these students and their great accomplishment.”

Team members are Alex Brewington, Joe Coker, Tim Ablondi, Ben Coney, Zelda Engeler-Young, Connor Lichtenwalter, Kennedy Reynolds, Megan Haase, Kate Lange, Trey Smith and Matthew Sweere.

“They’re all really smart,” McKee said. “It rotates but Tim Ablondi would be captain. We have all kinds of questions from geography, history, language, Broadway musicals, to pop culture and sports. We have a well-rounded team. Tim has geography. Sam has math and Kennedy knows pop culture.”

McKee said Ben Coney is the group’s expert on classic and hard rock music. He also knows his sports, she said.

Matthew Sweere is her other sports buff.

“I have to brag on this group. Sometimes you have a few really smart kids and others who just sit around, but we have a team. They’ve learned to defer to each other,” she said. “I’ve been proud of their teammanship and sensitivity to each other.”

McKee said final credit goes to teachers in the school district.

“I consider myself a facilitator. I contribute as a coach, but I just enable them to use what other teachers have taught them. I credit our curriculum. Coaches will ask me how I get them to be so good, but I say that they come to me this way. I credit the teachers and whole school district for that.”

Conway Christian won the junior high division at nationals in 2012.

(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by email at or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to Send us your news at