Stories from intrepid reporters attending the Illinois Press Foundation Journalism Workshop at Eastern Illinois University
By Elizabeth Johnston
Quizbowl, a commonly male-dominated academic competition, faced Olivia Lamberti with a challenge many others would not understand: being a girl. Throughout her six-year involvement in Quizbowl, this became the primary obstacle Lamberti sought to overcome, and, with great success, she became the first female student sent to Quizbowl nationals by her high school in almost a decade.
In lieu of the the Science Olympiad tryouts that she had missed, a sixth grade Lamberti unintentionally stumbled upon her school’s Quizbowl team. After doing well at the impromptu tryout, she made the cut. Since then, Lamberti’s affinity for the team has grown and aided in her progression toward receiving various National Quizbowl awards, including a 2015 nomination for Freshman of the Year and becoming the highest freshman scorer.
“… It was kind of lonely at first,” Lamberti said. “But I had to show them that I was worth talking to.”
Lamberti’s success can be rightfully attributed to her unconventional introduction to the team and drive to prove herself despite her gender.
“It’s a challenge for having the team include her,” said father Peter Lamberti. “It was just a challenge to be a girl.”
Her interest in the Science Olympiad and other academic tournaments were indicative of her competitive nature, but her fondness for the Quizbowl was unforeseen.
“I was interested in academic competitions, but I could never anticipate how big a part of my life it would become,” Lamberti said.
Lamberti has fond memories of her time spent competing, but was especially struck by the praise she received from a parent who approached her after a tournament, clearly impressed with her performance.
“It was after a match…and then this mom comes over with her young daughter and she says ‘You’re such a great role model for my daughter’ because there aren’t that many girls in Quizbowl and so she thought that I might serve as an academic role model,” Lamberti said. ‘I was just so bewildered with happiness.”
Despite being one of the only girls on the team, Lamberti proved that she could hold her own and inspire others to follow in her footsteps.
“Being one of the only girls in Quizbowl is far from easy,” Lamberti said. “But I wouldn’t trade my time in this activity for the world.”