Watson brings fresh perspective to 44th Trivia contest

Carolyn Schultz

Trivia enthusiasts across campus and across the Midwest came together last weekend to compete in Lawrence’s 44th annual Great Midwest Trivia Contest. The contest began at 10:00:37 Friday night, Jan. 23.
President Jill Beck asked the first question: “In the ‘Citadel of Opportunity’ section of ‘An Invitation to the International Olympic Committee to Celebrate the XIX Olympiad at Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A.’ there is a photograph of a girl wearing a sign around her neck. This sign bears the name of what notable figure?”
This question was the “Super Garrauda,” the last and most difficult question of the previous trivia contest. Asking the last question of the previous year as the first question of the next year is one of many long-standing trivia traditions. Nontraditionally this year, Erin Campbell Watson played the part of trivia grand master. She is only the second woman ever to fill this role on her own, following Melinda Young in 1977.
On being the second woman to head the contest, Watson said, “I was nervous going in because I felt like people were maybe skeptical about my ability to be in charge and adhere to the same kind of style they’ve had in previous years.”
Watson has been an enthusiastic trivia participant since she played trivia her freshman year and became addicted. She participated in the contest the past two years as a trivia master.
“I ran the contest with my own personality kept intact,” said Watson. “I think people got a kick out of it. The contest had a different personality than it’s had in recent years, [and] people ended up enjoying that.”
Last year’s grand master, James Eric Prichard, appointed Watson. Following tradition, the current Grand Master announced her choice for next year’s GM at the end of the trivia contest Sunday evening – in all reality, Monday morning because the contest tends to run overtime. The contest dragged out until 1 a.m., with the ceremonies finishing just before 2 a.m.
Watson named Drew Baumgartner as next year’s grand master. “At an objective level, he had the most experience,” said Watson, who has worked with Baumgartner as trivia master since her sophomore year. “His enthusiasm for trivia is unparalleled. He deserved it.”
This year’s contest played host to a huge on-campus rivalry between the Yuai team – an eclectic social group – and the Brokman-O-Hiett team, an impressive conglomeration of four residence halls. The Yuai team came into the contest with seven consecutive victories since 2002. This year’s Yuai victory was no surprise to many.
“Going into the contest, we felt confident in our ability to once again come away with first place on-campus due to our strength of will [and] love of trivia,” said Michael Solomon, czar of the Yuai community.
“Overall, we feel the reason our group is able to dominate trivia is that the contest is an exercise of collective action within an atmosphere of madness,” said Solomon, “something in which Yuai’s excel.”
The contest was broken up into themed hours, during which eight to nine questions were asked. The video game hour, “Pwnin’ some N00bs,” was a stressful one for Trivia Masters Alex Finn McCartney and Chelsea Seremeta. At the beginning of the hour, they found only three questions previously written. They wrote six questions off the top of their heads while on the air.
The action questions were amusing this year, including the “Party Hour” challenge to crash the Delta Tau Delta Jersey Party dressed as New Jersey stereotypes. Watson’s favorite was an action question she’s wanted to do for a while: Create a montage like in the film “Rocky.” The Greek Team won this by dressing up as Soviet wrestlers, running up and down the amphitheater steps, and ending with a raw-meat boxing contest.
The popularity of the 44th contest seems to ensure continued excitement for the 45th. For those not trivia savvy, the answer to this year’s first question was Josephine Baker.