When Religion, Competition Clash

BATTLE GROUND — For seven of the past eight years, a Knowledge Bowl team from Columbia Adventist Academy has qualified for the state championship tournament.

Each time, though, the students have smiled, cheered and declined the invitation to the competition, which this year will be on Saturday, March 26.

The state match always takes place on a Saturday, the day Seventh-day Adventists celebrate the Sabbath. From sundown Friday through sundown Saturday, Seventh-day Adventists take a spiritual break from work and school. They focus on family, fellowship and God.

Knowledge Bowl competitions don't fit into Sabbath celebrations.

"It's OK. We're used to the idea," said Caleb Woodruff, 18.

Woodruff and the four other members of the school's varsity Knowledge Bowl team won first place for their division in the regional tournament Monday in Longview.

During the team quiz-bowl rounds, judges ask questions on everything from politics and science to geography and popular culture. "We had to concede (the state tournament berth) to a team that we beat by like 15 points," said Damian Donesky, 17.

For these team members, winning the regional title is the capstone of their season. They practice twice a week during lunch from the first week of school through the regional tournament.

The five students work together, picking up their own special areas of interest. Donesky is the science and mechanical buff. Adoree Hatton, 18, specializes in the English language and anything Canadian. The history guru is Regi Benson, 18. Kevin Ford, 17, tackles geography and history questions. And Woodruff, "He's the star of the show," Ford said.

Columbia Adventist Academy isn't the only school in the area that has faced challenges when it comes to state events being scheduled on a Saturday. In January 2004, the Oregon Board of Education decided not to accommodate Portland Adventist Academy students' religious beliefs and continued to hold state basketball playoffs on Saturday.

Columbia Adventist Knowledge Bowl coach and teacher Virlys Moller said several years ago the school asked that the academic competition be held on another day. However, because many public schools have policies against holding school activities on Sundays, the competition could not be shifted.

Hatton said she just considers the regional competition the end of the team's season. "We don't feel like it's some huge sacrifice," she said.

Moller said she is proud of the students, and their accomplishment is a reflection of the school's success. The 100-student private high school has been recognized for high academic achievement and the students' commitment to community service.

Now the three seniors and two juniors are thinking about the rest of the school year and enjoying lunches in the cafeteria with their friends. They are proud of their new trophy, but they aren't dwelling on what could have been.

"If we don't go, we can't feel bad for not losing!" Donesky said, laughing. The Columbian

Amy McFall Prince covers education news for The Columbian, a newspaper serving Clark County, Washington. This article was reprinted from The Columbian with permission.

June 01, 2005 / Oregon Conference

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