Sven Guild members Evan Welch (left), Rowan Murdock, Gail Leavitt, Kyler Helquist and Diego Winn. [Courtesy photo]

Grand County Middle School’s quiz bowl teams are off to a strong 2017.

In the first two tournaments of the year, the varsity team placed first and second among teams from southeastern Utah.

Team members Evan Welch, Rowan Murdock, Diego Winn, Gail Leavitt and Kyler Helquist played very well together to clinch their first championship. They call themselves “The Sven Guild,” and their enthusiasm and knowledge served them very well, coach Mike Estenson said.

The team competed against middle school teams from Helper, Mont Harmon, San Rafael, Canyon View and Albert R. Lyman. On Wednesday, March 1, at the home opener, the varsity team won four out of five games in the pool play to be seeded second against the other seven teams in the single-elimination bracket for the championship. During the championship, they won all three games to take the first-place trophy. Helper had two teams that finished second and third.

The junior varsity team of Ryder Murdock, Dayson Ward, Ivory Hickman, Daren Reed and Dalton Wood won two out of five games in pool play. Due to time constraints, the single-elimination bracket only included the top six teams out of 24, which they just barely missed out on.

“They are doing a great job in building confidence and experience,” Estenson said.

On Wednesday, March 8, the teams traveled to Green River to play against all of the same teams from the region. The varsity team went undefeated in pool play and was thus seated first. In one exciting game, they answered every one of the seven questions correctly and beat Albert R. Lyman Middle School from Blanding. In the afternoon tournament, Grand lost to Mont Harmon in the finals and placed second.

By winning the March 1 tournament in Moab, they qualified for the 35th annual National Junior Academic Championships.

“Grand County Middle School has attended this prestigious event four times in the past and it is exciting to see our small town showcase its talented students on a national stage like this,” Estenson said.

The teams will compete in two more tournaments this spring. On Tuesday, March 21, they go to Mont Harmon Middle School in Price and on Tuesday, March 28, they go to Albert R. Lyman Middle School in Blanding.