From left to right: Jacob Simmons, Ryan Happel, Ava Austin, Logan Mathis and Giifti Benti.EDWARDSVILLE - The SIUE Quiz Bowl team recently turned heads at nationals, where they placed 16th in the country.

The team beat out Cornell, Purdue, Penn State and other big names to secure a spot in the top 16. Jacob Simmons, a Southwestern High grad, who started the Quiz Bowl team during his freshman year at SIUE, noted it has been a powerful experience to watch the team grow and take on the national competition.

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“It feels great,” Simmons said. “The way to go to nationals is you have to qualify through only one tournament held every year, and that was a little discouraging because we were always so close the last three or four years, minus 2020 when we had COVID. We were so close to qualifying and yet we were just a couple teams out from making it. But we were finally able to qualify this year, and it was both a relief and a cool feeling to do that, to represent SIUE at the national level.”

Simmons said the team has grown since its start in 2018. They currently have 12 members divided into A and B teams, and both teams have been playing well throughout this school year.

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As a high schooler at Southwestern, Simmons himself was one of the top scholastic bowl players in the nation. He has competed in quiz bowl tournaments since he was in middle school and received varsity letters every year. When he arrived at SIUE and realized the school didn’t have a team, he decided he would create one.

"I was a big ‘Jeopardy’ fan. I would watch ‘Jeopardy’ almost every day growing up, and once I got into high school, I realized I was pretty good at it. I had some great coaches and some great teammates,” Simmons remembered. “Once I got to college, I just couldn’t get the itch out of my system, so I had to start a team up from scratch there. I’ve been doing it for 12 years and once you start doing things for a couple of years, it’s hard to get them out of you.”

Simmons will receive his master’s degree from SIUE and go on to teach history at Marquette Catholic High School in Alton starting this fall. He hopes to become involved in Marquette’s scholastic bowl team as a coach or mentor.

In the meantime, Simmons has high hopes for the SIUE Quiz Bowl team. He noted he will still be in the area to help out if needed, and he is excited to watch the new president shine in his role. He hopes the team’s success at nationals will help them get more community support, and he is thankful for the support of SIUE and local businesses who made it possible for them to compete.

“It’s always cool to have the community support more of their local teams, especially after going to a national tournament and playing among the other top 31 teams in the nation,” Simmons added. “I know that they have a good starting point for the years to come…Quiz bowl is just part of me, and sometimes, like I said, it’s hard to get it out of your system.”

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