By STEVE EIGHINGER
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Susan Schmitz is the first to admit how excited she is, but she is equally quick to emphasize the success of this year's Quincy Notre Dame Scholastic Bowl team has not surprised her.
When QND clinched its first trip to the Class A state finals, Schmitz, who started the program in 1983 and is the team's coach, immediately thought back to the end of last season when the Raiders failed to get out of the regionals for the 30th consecutive year.
"I remember Steven (Musholt) coming to me after we had lost and telling me he felt if we worked hard enough (before next year) we could make it to the state," Schmitz said.
"Next year" is here, and Steven, now the Raiders' senior captain, proved to be prophetic.
"It's amazing to know this is the first QND team to do this," Musholt said. "We've had some quality teams in the past, but none had ever been able to put it all together."
QND faces Carterville at 10 a.m. Friday in the Peoria Civic Center in the opening match of pool play. Toledo Cumberland and Carlinville also are in the Raiders' pool. A second pool consists of Chicago University School, Rockford Country Day School, Decatur Lutheran and Peoria Christian.
The two pool winners play in Friday's 3 p.m. championship match. The two second-place finishers in each pool play in the third-place match, also at 3 p.m. Most matches take about one hour.
"It has been exciting watching the student body become involved," Musholt said. "Watching Twitter and Facebook, I've been seeing students become interested in Scholastic Bowl who might not have been otherwise."
Musholt, fellow seniors Eric Eling and Nick Scholz, juniors Gibson Brinkley and Gabe Hun and sophomore Sarah Meidl make up a six-person rotation (five "play" at any one time) used by Schmitz. Each of the Raiders have their specialties.
Musholt is the leading authority on math and sports, Eling on science, Meidl on literature, Brinkley on history, Scholz on music and Hun on biblical studies.
QND won its first regional when it ousted Payson Seymour, Williamsville and Unity, then followed with sectional victories over Riverton, Athens and Mason City Illini Central. None of the sectional wins were closer than 100 points.
"It's been interesting to watch this (competition) evolve over the years," Schmitz said. "The questions are much more difficult than they used to be."
Schmitz said she will always remember one of the questions from the early years of Scholastic Bowl -- "What was the name of Barbie's boyfriend doll?" (It's "Ken," for those who may have forgotten.)
"Anything could be a question," Musholt said. "You're always thinking about things that can be questions while you're watching the news ... or (ESPN) SportsCenter."
Schmitz calls this particular QND group "fascinating."
"It's fun to watch them work together," Schmitz said. "No one tries to dominate the competition. I have a lot of respect for them."
Eling said friends suggested he get involved in Scholastic Bowl, feeling he would relish the competition aspect.
"I gave it a try, and I liked it," Eling said. "It's gratifying to do something our school has not done before."
Meidl's story is similar to Eling's. Meidl's sister, who is a senior at Hannibal (Mo.) High School, has been involved in a similar activity and suggested Sarah give it a try at QND.
"Once I got into it, it was easier that I thought it would be," she sad. "It's a lot easier (being involved) than it is watching."
Schmitz seems to be the perfect coach for the team, possessing degrees in law enforcement and English and minors in sociology and social studies. She coached the QND its first 15 years, then took some time off and returned six years ago.
"I have taught about 10 different subjects at QND, and I like to read about anything," she said.
The Scholastic Bowl season normally begins in January. Practice starts in October. The QND team generates money during the year to help cover travel and other costs with a variety of fundraisers.
Most of its matches are in the West-Central Illinois area, but the team has traveled as far as Aledo and Peoria for rgular-season competition.
QND enters state competition with a 39-9 record.