State College of Florida Brain Bowl team topples defending champ to win national tournament

BRADENTON -- State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, won the national championship of the National Academic Quiz Tournaments over the weekend coming out on top of a 24-team field.

All NAQT teams won sectional tourneys to qualify for the national competition.

The SCF "Fire" Brain Bowl team, including SCF students Michael Moore, Naim Chowdhury, Leon Hostetler and Kara Stevens, and alternates Austin Goode and Carlyle Styer, upended defending champion Valencia College to win the 2015 National Community College Championship Tournament held Friday and Saturday in Atlanta.

State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, defeated Valencia 410-195 in the finals to win the 2015 NAQT Community College Championship Tournament.

Broward College took third as Florida schools filled the top three spots. Redlands, Okla., finished fourth.

The top four teams earned invitations to the 2015 Intercollegiate Championship Tournament next month against four-year schools, including Ivy League power Cornell and Stanford, a private research university and one of the world's most prestigious institutions.

Moore said his team will work hard to prepare and won't be overawed.

"I'd certainly like to think we can compete with them," Moore said. "We're going to find out. But I'm definitely not going to give anyone permission to beat me because they went to a more expensive school than me."

One Ivy League school unexpectedly fell short.

"Harvard didn't make it," said SCF Brain Bowl adviser Christina Dwyer, SCF assistant professor, mathematics. "They did not score quite as well as we did."

The Brain Bowl national competition requires knowledge of academic subjects, current events and popular culture. SCF pointed for this national competition all year, Dwyer said.

"I'm not surprised we won," Dwyer said. "I kept going around to people saying: 'Don't tell anybody, but I'm pretty sure they are going to win.'"

SCF brainpower came from unconventional sources.

Chowdhury entered SCF with a general education development degree. He finished seventh in the individual competition and plans to attend New College of Florida this fall with Moore.

"Brain Bowl has given me the will to succeed. I've never been as motivated and hard-working as I am now," Chowdhury said.

Team captain Moore, 26, of Bradenton, placed third to lead SCF.

"It was just really a drive to do something new," Moore said. "Our school had never placed in the top four at nationals."

Hostetler was raised Amish but has become the team's science expert.

Stevens and Styer are SCF Collegiate School students simultaneously completing their first two years of college and high school diplomas.

The SCF Brain Bowl team finished fifth last year, according to Jessica Klipa, SCF public information director.

"They were determined to win this year," Klipa said. "Moore and Chowdhury worked throughout the summer, studying and planning how to be successful in this year's season of tournaments."

The regular season is not over for the two SCF Brain Bowl teams.

SCF's Fire and Ice teams go to the Florida College System Activities Association Tournament at Pasco-Hernando State College on March 12-14 after placing first and third, respectively, at the West Central Regional Tournament in February. Hyun Kim, assistant professor, art, design, humanities, is also a Brain Bowl team adviser.

"We are so proud of our Brain Bowl team," said SCF President Dr. Carol Probstfeld, who attended the tourney in Atlanta to cheer on the team. "Their success is due to their determination and hard work, and it couldn't be more well deserved."