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ASU breaks into ACF Nationals

Students lead the way on the road to quiz bowl’s grand event


Group photo of four ASU students, with one holding a small trophy.

ASU Quiz Bowl members (from left) Jaik Havlick, Skand Parvatikar, Bryan Ugaz and Denis Liu at the ACF Regionals. Courtesy photo

April 05, 2024

Written by Victor Johnson

For the first time in ASU Quiz Bowl history, the team has qualified for a spot at the ACF Nationals, the premier collegiate quiz bowl national championship, which will be held at Duke University April 20–21.

To secure a spot at this esteemed event, university teams must navigate a series of rigorous tournaments, vying for qualification alongside renowned institutions like the University of Chicago, Cornell University and Stanford University.

Quiz Bowl player Jaik Havlick, an economic and philosophy double major and alumnus of the Critical Languages Institute, explains the work that went into qualifying and the significance of the ACF Nationals for a quiz bowl player.

“Teams play in two to 10 tournaments during the course of the year, with a single qualifying tournament called ACF Regionals in January,” Jaik said. “Winning ACF Nationals is the most you can hope to achieve for your school as a quiz bowl player.”

Jaik said that quiz bowl success means crossing disciplinary boundaries.

“Many of the nation's best quiz bowl players  — including my teammate and captain Bryan Ugaz — are graduate students, but all have interests and deep knowledge in fields that they have no professional affiliation with. Bryan, for example, is a National Science Foundation scholar, PhD student in chemistry at ASU and one of the best science quiz bowl players nationally, but also specializes in world literature for our quiz bowl team.”

Jaik utilizes his coursework from the Critical Languages Institute's Russian program, leveraging his language skills to excel in quiz bowl tournaments.

“Linguistics is a category that comes up multiple times a day during a tournament, and a grammatically complex language like Russian gives you a great window into syntax and historical linguistic change.”

Leading up to the ACF Nationals, Jaik said he’s spending his time reading and expanding his knowledge.

“My teammates, I know, are doing the same. Denis Liu, a senior computer science and mathematics double major, is our fine arts player and is currently reading Harold Schoenberg’s ‘Lives of the Great Composers’ for the second time. Skand Parvatikar, a computer science major, is working on reading about American history and world mythology. Our captain, Bryan, is reading a different book every time I see them.

“We’re really looking forward to competing against the country’s top teams, and we’ll be going back next year, too.”

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