WKAA academic competitions return – with a twist

Members of the 2019-20 CCHS academic team included (front row, from left) Clara Ortt, Kamron Maroney, Audrey Hensley, Blake Lancaster, (back row, from left) Weston Graham, Josh Hagan, Noah Helphenstine, Rachel McClung, Robbie Phelps and Olivia Martin. The Tigers return to competition Thursday against Livingston Central.

The West Kentucky Academic Association will bring back academic competitions this year, but as with most things, will have a different look because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the WKAA, academic teams from high schools and middle schools across western Kentucky compete in question-and-answer contests in preparation for the quick recall contests in Governor’s Cup competitions, held in January and February.

The teams are made up of four players with substitutes allowed. The player who knows the answer to a question buzzes in and answers it. If he is correct, his team gets a bonus question. If not, the opposing team has a chance to answer and get a bonus question.

Competitions are made up of two 12-minute halves. The team with the most correct answers in that time wins the contest.

With COVID-19 concerns, getting students from different schools to meet in the same room can be problematic. WKAA President Jeremy Krug found a solution.

Teams will compete online through Google Meet, a video meeting app.

Teams are making their own schedules throughout the fall semester through an online document. The designated “home” team is in charge of providing the conference ID number and the online buzzer system.

“It’s kind of an abbreviated schedule,” Krug said. “Instead of having the eight weeks with different sites, we’re going to have about 12 slots — 12 matches — so everyone can choose who they want to play for each match. Some dates will have one match, some dates will have two matches.

“We have an online buzzer system that we’re using so students can basically be anywhere in the world, in theory, and they can buzz in and participate.”

Krug said most of the teams will gather at their own school to compete, with cameras focused on them and the competition’s moderator.

The West Kentucky Academic Bowl — the season-ending championship competition to determine scholarship prizes — will be held. It is not certain yet if West Kentucky Community and Technical College will host it as it has every previous year.

“They’ve already canceled the President’s Cup that we have in January and the middle school tournament because of COVID restrictions,” Krug said. “At this time, we don’t know if they will be able to host this in their TV station in their theater. If they are, we’ll have it as normal. If not, we’ll have to host it ourselves through Meet or through Zoom and post it to YouTube.”

The first week of competition begins Tuesday and features Carlisle County against Hickman County, Graves County against Ballard Memorial, Murray against Mayfield and Calloway County against Marshall County.

While the WKAA is mostly made up of schools in the Jackson Purchase, three schools from the Pennyrile region — Caldwell County, Crittenden County and Livingston Central — along with Cairo, Illinois, take part in the competitions, but do not qualify for the season-ending Academic Bowl.

Caldwell County opens its WKAA season at 3:45 p.m. Thursday against Livingston Central, with the Cardinals serving as the home team.

Caldwell County went 2-4 last year with a 1-3 record against other teams in its district.