BB&N Raises the Trophy on GBH-TV’s High School Quiz Show

By BB&N June 6, 2023

       In the waning seconds of GBH-TV’s High School Quiz Show championship match between BB&N and Mansfield High School, Bradford Kimball ’24 had just buzzed in with the correct answer, “Chancellorsville,” for another 20 points. For the first time in the one-and-a-half-minute Lightning Round, he glanced at the score: BB&N led by 50, and 11 seconds remained. Laser-focusing again on host Billy Costa reading the next question—“Croatia and Slovenia were once part of what country that dissolved?”—Bradford buzzed in at 7 seconds before Costa could finish the last word. 

       “Yugoslavia,” Bradford said. With glee overtaking his expression of intense concentration, he turned and grinned at Henry Kirk ’24 next to him while Costa asked the next question, cut off by the time-clock buzzer. 

       “When I saw the 11 seconds, it instantly clicked that, yep, we’d won,” Bradford says. “I figured that there was no way Mansfield could come back, but my next answer locked it in. We’d just won!”

      And then Billy Costa made it official: “The winning team and state champion, Buckingham Browne & Nichols with 380 points!” Confetti cannons showered the team in glittering blue and gold. 

     Although that final show was taped on January 29, the victory could not be publicized until after its May 20 airing. The school celebrated the team at a June 2 community event, attended by GBH producers, who presented a championship banner and a trophy to BB&N as the winners of High School Quiz Show’s Season 14.

    Persevering through the bracket of 18 schools, BB&N first knocked off Shrewsbury High School 500–260, Acton-Boxborough High School 540–115, and, in a tough semifinal, Lexington High School 380–335.  

     The final match, 380–310, also proved challenging for BB&N. They were tied with Mansfield at 90 for one moment mid-Round One and led by just 10 at one point in the last of the four rounds. But Bradford was on fire that last Lightning Round: blazing on the buzzer, he was the only one to answer for BB&N throughout the round, and of the 12 questions Costa completed, he answered seven, six of them correctly. 

    That stellar streak notwithstanding, Bradford is the first to credit the contributions of his teammates: Henry, Daniel Kyte-Zable ’23, and Asher Parker-Sartori ’23, along with alternates Aaron Rai ’24 and Gabe Cooper ’26. 

    “I was really focused on the team and trying to talk to them and be present with the four of us and our two coaches,” Bradford says. 

    “They were always committed to playing as a team and not just being individuals trying to get answers,” remarks Trivia Club and Quiz Bowl Team co-advisor and English teacher Sam Crihfield. “You can see in every round that they’re looking at each other, relying on each other. Honestly, I think that’s why they won.” 

     That all-for-one-and-one-for-all attitude was especially evident in the rounds when team members are allowed to confer while Costa is reading the question. “It helps to know who to trust for a certain category,” Asher says. “If a music question comes up, we all look to Daniel; he tells us the answer, and then we’re all ready to buzz as soon as the opportunity comes.” 

     “Or if it’s a question about the Crimean War,” Daniel adds with a grin, “go to Bradford. Or a question about Faulkner, go to Henry.”

     The team agreed that if one person’s answer, delivered by anyone, was wrong, they’d shrug it off. Bradford says that their collective mindset was “‘that’s just how we play the game’ and to keep moving forward. We worked to build that trust, and that made it really special.”

     Henry’s personal approach was to be chill. “I thought, if we win, so what; if we lose, so what. We’re here and that’s what matters,” he says. “Maybe I’ll never be able to do this again, so it was just really an awesome experience to enjoy.”

        In the final, after a rough head-to-head round, in which individuals square off, Crihfield recalls going up to the team on set along with co-advisor and Math teacher Chip Rollinson. “A couple of guys had missed some questions, and they were maybe a little bit shaken up about that,” Crihfield says. “I remember Henry saying, ‘Just have fun.’ I think they had the competitive spirit but also the desire to just enjoy the moment, and I think that allowed them to be loose going into the final couple rounds.”

      Noting that the mix of “the boys’ personalities played off one another really well,” Rollinson thinks in that particular crucial moment a boost also came from some goofy audience support. Rahdin Salehian ’23 had printed out three-foot-long photos of the four boys’ faces, pieced them together on foam core, and armed three friends with one head each. “I remember going back to my seat and telling the kids in the audience, ‘Lift up the heads now and move them around!’ And then all of a sudden, the guys on the team were smiling,” Rollinson says. “The next round started, and their mindset was in a different place. I definitely think dancing giant heads are important!” he says, laughing. 

       The final victory capped a meteoric ascent for BB&N, making only its second appearance on the show after qualifying last year as a wild-card participant in the school’s first attempt to earn a berth in the competition. Although they were ousted in that preliminary round, they were undeterred and took the tryout test again this year—and scored very well. It was Bradford and Henry’s second appearance on the show, though their first in-person experience taping at GBH’s Brighton studios, as last year’s competition was conducted on Zoom. This year, after an open call for auditions held by BB&N’s Trivia Club, helmed by Bradford, Asher, and Daniel earned places on the team. 

    “You have to find people who, for whatever reason, happen to have a broad knowledge or are the kind of person who reads a Wikipedia page for fun and follows the links,” Bradford says, noting that reading the news also helps. “But I think the really important part is being a curious person.” 

     The students also proved resourceful, motivated, and strategic. “They figured out all the preparation on their own,” Rollinson says. 

    They watched past episodes of High School Quiz Show and played along, absorbing answers to questions that are sometimes reused, and practiced buzzing in on their computers. “I felt that as a team collectively we had the trivia knowledge and ability to win,” Bradford says, “so I was really focused on how to convert that. It was more important to develop the skills specific to this game than to learn the trivia.”

     In addition to practicing their buzzing technique of “spam-clicking”—rapid-firing the buzzer—the team also effectively deployed the Categories-Round risky “toss” option, which enables a team to throw a question they can’t answer to their opponents, who will either win or lose points in the venture. “We used the toss successfully in each game,” Bradford says, “and no one ever tossed to us.” 

     Among the questions they faced, a few stand out in the boys’ memories. Daniel was asked, “During which holiday was Charlemagne crowned?” He says, “It was notable for a number of reasons: he was declared emperor of the Romans on Christmas Day by the pope, which is a great way to make an entrance! I remembered that from a few years ago; that was one of the ones I was proud of getting.” 

    Appreciated among his teammates for his sports knowledge, Henry benefited a couple of times from his parents’ interests. “We ran into so many tennis questions. My mom is a huge tennis fan, and I’ve watched a lot of tennis, so those were fun to see. Also, there was a Trevor Noah question; Born of Crime is one of my dad’s favorite books, and I’ve read it, as well. It’s really good. That was a good one to get.”

     Henry went on to say, “Bradford and I are both in Mr. Williams’s Brit Lit class, and they asked about John Milton and Paradise Lost. I was happy about that,” he says, laughing. 

     Crihfield recalls that in one head-to-head round, Asher got a question about which state had banned the use of gas-powered lawnmowers. “He and his opponent just stared at each other for a few seconds, and then Asher came up with ‘California,’” he says. “It wasn’t something he knew, but he paused, reasoned it out, and then busted in with the answer. Afterward, the other guys were saying, ‘Asher, that was awesome!’”

      Asher remembers asking Henry right before one game what the capital of North Dakota is. Daniel then followed up by asking, “What’s the capital of South Dakota?” to which Henry replied, “Pierre.” Daniel says, “And that ended up being the last question in my head-to-head round. That was the one thing we asked before the show.” Laughing, he shakes his head. 

     Bradford grins as he recalls a question in the first game about which fruit people threw at movie screens during showings of Minions: The Rise of Gru. “We were all racing to see who could buzz in, and I think I got it with ‘Bananas,’” he says. “That was a funny question.”

   “And then a question that was meaningful,” he continues, “was the second-to-last one in the final round,” the moment Bradford realized they’d won. The question stated that Stonewall Jackson died, “and Billy was going to continue with ‘at what battle,’ and I buzzed in and said, ‘Chancellorsville,’” says Bradford. “And I remembered that because my grandfather, who passed away recently, taught me that when I was 10, and I remember exactly where we were at the dinner table. So that was a meaningful moment for me.” 

    In the end, a sense of connection—to people associated with the questions, to each other—repeatedly surfaces in the boys’ reflections on this whole experience. During that weekend of January 28 and 29, when the BB&N team taped all four of its shows, the guys spent a lot of time together, eating meals and just hanging out. “I think that was a great experience for all of us,” Asher says, “getting closer and all of that. It helped us communicate and strategize well together.”

    “I think the four of us became incredibly close friends through this experience,” Bradford says, “which is maybe the best thing to come from it.” 

      Click here for pictures from the show (courtesy of Liz Friar) and the trophy presentation.