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Saratoga Springs competition will test knowledge of history

Saratoga Springs competition will test knowledge of history

Students already compete in spelling and geography bees, science bowls and writing contests.

Students already compete in spelling and geography bees, science bowls and writing contests.

But what about history?

A former “Jeopardy!” champion set out to give the forgotten subject its due with regional history bees and bowls for high-schoolers culminating in a national competition in Washington in April.

In its first year, the organization is holding one of those tournaments at Saratoga Springs High School on Saturday.

“There’s really sort of a gap there,” said Will Mantell, tournament director for the New York-Albany Area History Bee and Bowl. “So we’re trying to fill that gap for students that really love history.”

“We sort of ran with this, and it’s been a very successful first year,” he said.

Saratoga Springs, Broadalbin-Perth, Colonie Central, Hoosick Falls and Gloversville schools have already registered their teams.

The local bowl will include at least eight teams of four players each, and Mantell said four or five more schools have expressed interest but haven’t signed up yet.

Some teens from those teams also will take part individually in the history bee.

Ten tournaments across the country have been held so far, and more are scheduled. Two others are taking place in New York state — there was one in White Plains in November and another is scheduled for March 21 in Buffalo.

Top finishers in the bee and bowl will qualify for the first National History Bee and Bowl Championships.

National History Bowl and Bee, a private, for-profit startup company, is based in Ridgewood, N.J., where owner David Madden is from. The company conducted a pilot competition there in May.

In 2005, Madden reigned in a 20-game run on “Jeopardy!,” the second-longest ever after Ken Jennings, who had a 74-game winning streak.

The company has spread the word through teachers involved in the National Council for the Social Studies, so it’s attracted teams from schools that don’t take part in the better-known Quiz Bowl.

“We’re trying not to work through the usual Quiz Bowl-type line,” Mantell said.

Quiz Bowl covers history questions and other topics, but Madden wanted a contest that was solely devoted to history, Mantell said.

The company writes its own history questions with its six-person staff. “We have a system so they’re divided equally among various categories of history,” Mantell said.

In the History Bee, students answer questions in three preliminary rounds and the most successful youths move up to final rounds. They’re not automatically eliminated from the next round with a wrong answer like students in a spelling bee are.

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