Wisconsin School for the Deaf Academic Bowl team members at regionals are, from the left (front) Brianna Henke, Madison Bongard, Katie McClyman, Caleb Zapadinsky, along with (back) Bobbi Cordano – Gallaudet University President, Casey Kelly – Coach, Lucinda Inches – coach, Sami Beaver – Gallaudet University Youth Programs Coordinator. The team qualified to participate in a national event in Washington, D.C. in April. (Submitted photo)

The Wisconsin School for the Deaf Academic Bowl team recently qualified to participate in the 23rd National Gallaudet University Academic Bowl at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. April 12 through 14.

The WSD team earned a third-place finish out of 19 teams that participated in the February Midwest Regional Academic Bowl competition at the Kansas School for the Deaf in Olathe, Kansas.

Gallaudet University sponsors four regional competitions annually, with about 80 teams from deaf and hard-of-hearing programs nationwide participating, according to WSD representatives. The top four finishers from each regional advance to the national competition along with four wild-card teams.

Members of the WSD team include Brianna Henke (4th-year player, senior), Madison Bongard (3rd-year player, junior), Katie McClyman (2nd-year player, sophomore) and Caleb Zapadinsky (1st-year player, freshman) and coaches Lucinda Inches and Casey Kelly.

“I am extremely proud and honored to take third place at the Midwest regionals and to qualify for the nationals. I have been involved in the academic bowl since my freshman year, and it has always been my goal to be able to attend the nationals. Now that I finally have the chance to as a senior is a huge privilege for me,” Henke said.

She said the qualification is proof that hard work really does pay off.

“Out of all the years I have been involved, I don’t think there is a team like our team this year. We have amazing chemistry and a great friendship not just during the academic bowl, but in and out of school as well,” she said.

Henke said her favorite moment of the weekend in Kansas was when they played against KSD during the match for 3rd place.

“We were down by 12 points at the beginning of the third round, and honestly, we all thought we were going to lose. But in the third round, we earned 27 points, and beat KSD by 6 points. It was a really shocking win and we impressed everybody in that gym. That was a really cool feeling,” she said.

Henke earned the All-Star medal.

Zapadinsky said he was proud of himself and the team “for working so hard to win 3rd place. It was a happy moment for our team and going to the nationals. After that, I found out WSD’s Academic Bowl team has not been to the Nationals since 2003. That was 16 years ago… I felt so proud.”

Coach Kelly also had some pride to share.

“I was extremely proud of our team after telling them not to give up when they trailed several matches and won several games including the quarterfinals and 3rd place matches. Our team clinched it,” Kelly said.

Kelly, who was an Academic Bowl player for years, said now as a second-year coach there have been a lot of changes in the competition itself and there are exciting matches and the competitions are tougher.

“It’s so great to see that and also a great experience to meet and socialize together with all deaf students of the same level. They often know each other already from sports events and will probably meet again at Gallaudet University. You can see the bond there. It’s important and vital for them to participate in something like this and have full access. This shows them there are many other deaf students who can be as successful like themselves,” Kelly said.

“It’s a healthy competition. I look forward to the National games.”

The team was also fortunate to meet the Gallaudet University President Roberta (Bobbi) Cordano there.

According to Kelly, Cordano was proud and applauded the team because she has a deep connection with Wisconsin. She is a native of Delavan and father was a legendary football coach and a 30-plus years teacher of WSD.


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