Four Morgan State University Students arrived in Torrance, Calif. in April looking for a third consecutive title at the Honda Campus All-Star Challenge National Quiz Competition, and another $50,000 grant for their university.
While this year’s team did not quite live up to the results of its predecessors, the preparation for the competition and the camaraderie of teamwork yielded their own fruit for the competitors.
The Honda Campus All-Star Challenge is a quiz competition between teams from Historically Black Colleges and Universities held annually since 1989, and is sponsored by the American Honda Motor Company, according to the event’s website.
This year’s team from Morgan consisted of senior Micheal Osikomaiya, juniors Jaime Arribas and James Hayes-Barber, and freshman Riyo Perry. Hayes-Barber and Osikomaiya were the veteran holdovers from the previous two national championship teams. The team was led by their coach, Dr. Oluwatosin Adegbola, chair of the department of strategic communications at Morgan.
Adegbola, who has been coaching Morgan State in the competition since 2009, explained that any team expecting to do well at the event has to have a strong grasp of presidential history and constitutional amendments. On this year’s team, Arribas and Hayes-Barber were the two students responsible for ensuring that the team remained strong in this vital area of the competition.
Another area in which it pays to be strong in the All-Star Challenge is African-American history, an area on which the Morgan team specifically focused.
“I would say a year ago everybody was weak in African-American history,” said Adegbola.
The students attributed this weakness, in part, to the lack of emphasis on African-American history in American secondary education.
“I know a surprisingly good amount about European history, even though I never really paid attention to it, and that’s what was drummed in my head,” said Osikomaiya. “I never was taught African-American history.”
This year’s competition season kicked off in September, when 75 quizzes were conducted over three weeks at Morgan State University, administered throughout the campus in different courses. From these results, eight teams consisting of four students each were selected for a campus competition, which had to be held by the first week in December, according to rules established by the All-Star Challenge’s national board.
Of the 32 students who participated in the campus competition, only four would go on to represent Morgan at the national competition, held on April 13 and 14 in Torrance.
The first day of competition consisted of a round robin tournament in which the Morgan State team went 4-1, defeating South Carolina State, Xavier (Louisiana), Tuskegee, and Langston universities.
The team was not so lucky in the second round of competition, a single-elimination playoff round in which the Morgan students lost their first match and exited the competition short of their three-peat goal.
“Subject-wise I felt we had a pretty good grasp over everything—we had studied properly—so our biggest issue was just speed-wise on the buzzer,” said Hayes-Barber of the team’s early playoff exit.
While the team fell short of its goal, the preparation and camaraderie of the competition were its own reward.
“It increased my general cultural literacy,” Arribas said of the preparation for the competition. “It made me more aware of what’s going on in the world.”
Hayes-Barber added, “It is something very rewarding and it will improve you as a student and as a person.”