BREAKING NEWS: Wayland wins 9th annual Civics Bee in unprecedented tiebreaker


Credit: Kevin Wang

Some of the Wayland competitors in the annual tri-town civics bee. From right to left: eighth-grader Aiden Zhang, adult resident Jeff Kurtz and senior Alexander Briasco-Stewart. The Wayland team won in an unprecedented double tiebreaker with Sudbury.

Kevin Wang and Kyle Chen

Last Sunday, in an unprecedented two-part tiebreaker, Wayland’s Civics Bee team defeated teams from Sudbury and Weston to win the ninth annual Civics Bee. The bee was hosted by the League of Women Voters at Curtis Middle School in Sudbury, Massachusetts.

The teams were scored through six rounds of short answer, multiple choice and true/false questions. Each round’s questions were based around one of six topics, including the executive branch, legislative branch, judicial branch, town government/voting laws and logistics, landmark Supreme Court cases, and a lightning round consisting of short questions with numeral answers.

Additionally, they had ten minutes during audience intermission to complete a group project worth 50 points. Each team was given ten Latin terms used in the practice of law and matched the literal and legal meanings of the correct Latin word or phrase.

At the end of the six rounds, the Wayland and Sudbury teams made history by being the first two teams to tie in the nine years of the competition’s existence, deadlocked at 645 points apiece while Weston trailed with 620 points.

After a quick break, there was a tiebreaker for the two teams in first, a difficult three-part question about presidential succession. Both teams were given a few minutes to come up with answers to the three questions. However, Wayland and Sudbury both correctly answered all three parts of the question, leaving the teams still all tied up.

The second tiebreaker was another question the judge made up on the spot, this time about two Supreme Court decisions that were overturned by amendments to the Constitution. Members from the teams were required to identify the case as well as the amendment that revoked it. Again, each team was given a few minutes to write down their answers and submit them to the judge. The hall filled was with suspense as the judge handed the final verdict to the announcer, who declared Wayland the winner for the third year in a row.

Teams from each town consisted of middle and high school students along with three adults. During the normal rounds, each team would send three people to the podium – one middle school student, one high school student and one adult.

The Wayland team was coached by middle school social studies teachers Matthew McCormack and Jacob Montweiler, as well as high school history teachers Eva Urban-Hughes and Kevin Delaney. The middle school team consisted of William Cossart, Sam Goldstone, Zachary Marto, William Monroe, Ryan Murdock, Atharva Weling and Aiden Zhang. High school students were seniors Alexander Briasco-Stewart, Timothy Dowling, Isabella Rubin, Denzel Samuel, Nandita Subbiah, Rosa Vitiello and Anthony Zou. The Wayland adult residents competing were Tom Gennis, P.R. Goldstone and Jeff Kurtz.

For the middle school students, preparation began about a week before the bee. Coaches McCormack and Montweiler set up meetings during lunch blocks for the students, in which they provided guidance about the format of the bee as well as sample questions to help the students prepare.

“What we try to do is get the team together about two weeks before the civics bee,” McCormack said. “We meet every lunch for a little bit more [than] a week, and we try to go over the way the bee is set up and the types of questions they should expect.”

For the high school students, preparation for the bee started much earlier than the week before the event. According to Urban-Hughes, who teaches AP Government and Politics at WHS, many students on the high school team have been preparing since the beginning of the year.

“A large part of it is because they’re taking the government class, and I mind for my government class students who might be interested in doing this kind of a competition,” Urban-Hughes said. “We’ve been working on that for the last couple of weeks. I think we’ve been preparing for it all year, and [the bee] is like a culmination of the course.”

Despite all the preparation that the students put in, there is always the possibility that there will be a question that they had not studied or looked at. In such a situation, all the team can do is rack their brains and hope for the best.

Going into the bee, coaches were confident about the Wayland team’s chances.

“I think we’re going to win,” Urban-Hughes said. “These guys are super smart, and they’ve been preparing. I think that [our students] also come in with an advantage in that they’re taking the AP Government class at Wayland High School, so they’ve been studying this stuff all year.”

The Wayland team received certificates, pins and pocket constitutions for participating in the bee. In addition, they brought the eagle trophy back to Wayland for the third straight year, where it will remain until next year’s Civics Bee.