Saieesh Rao

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Saieesh Rao
Noted Subjects:
Geography, Chemistry, Biology, Greek/Norse/Hindu Myth, Pokemon
Current Collegiate Team University of Chicago (2013-present)
Past Collegiate Teams
High School Team Illinois Math and Science Academy (2010-2013), Stevenson (2009-2010)
Middle School Team Twin Groves (2007-2009)

Saieesh Rao is a rising fourth-year at the University of Chicago, and was a former player at the Illinois Math and Science Academy. Notable for being the only person in Illinois history to have played for the IHSA State Championship-winning school all four years of High School, he was by far the most inspirational player on the IMSA team during his tenure. His Quizbowl study habits are matched by none other (except for Daniel Collins). Rather than frauding knowledge, he actually knows it.

Middle School

Twin Groves

Saieesh's quizbowl career started inauspiciously in the fold of Twin Groves Middle School's scholastic bowl program. He would've made the school's A team in 6th grade, though he missed two tryouts during a family trip to India and was subsequently penalized, which resulted in him not making the team. In 7th grade he made the cut, though the coaches, in the spirit of offering all players a chance to participate, only played him for half of each game during infrequent conference matches. It wasn't until a home-game against rival Woodlawn Middle School when he nabbed a whopping 3 tossups in the first 15 question half, thereby leading his team in tossups-earned. After being pulled out at the half as usual, the Twin Groves team fell behind, so he was subbed back in with eight questions to go, six of which were then converted by Saieesh. From that day on, Saieesh's inner fire was awakened, leading to his recognition as a peerless force in the northwest suburbs' middle school scholastic bowl circuit. Saieesh captained his team to win the Patriot Conference both of his two years on the team, the only force in the region capable of upsetting Coach Jeffrey Price's Barrington Station team.

When Saieesh was in eighth grade, the Twin Grove's middle school scholastic bowl tryouts program introduced make-up sessions for students in the event that they missed tryout days. This was directly a result of having missed Saieesh as a sixth grader due to the rigid attendance policy.

Egan's Bet

At the sixth annual Barrington Invitational Tournament held on March 14th, 2009, Saieesh earned the right to request $10 from Tom Egan for answering a bonus part Egan believed would not be converted by Middle Schoolers. The full account on the forums can be found here and is quoted below.

In other notes; Mr. Egan owes someone on Twin Groves A a $10 bill. Egan felt pretty certain this bonus part would go dead and offered a $10 bill to the middle schooler who could answer it: Landform where valley glaciers may form in a hollowed-out portion of a mountain." Answer: Cirque

However, Saieesh's dad intervened using the account username "naren" and relinquished Saieesh's right to claim the $10; the post can be found here. Mike Wong, hearing of these events for the first time early in the fall of the 2010-2011 quizbowl season, is said to have exclaimed, "[Saieesh's] dad is so cool!" for having used the forums before any member of IMSA's soon to be A-team.

High School

Adlai E. Stevenson High School

At Stevenson, Saieesh was confined to the Frosh-Soph circuit due to the insistence of then-coach Bruce Fitzgerald to segregate members based on grade-level rather than ability. Thus, along with his sophomore teammates (whom he played with and against in middle school), Saieesh helped Stevenson dominate the Frosh-Soph Circuit of Northeastern Illinois, winning high profile tournaments such as the Carmel High School Invitational Frosh-Soph Tournament.

Encounter with IMSA

Saieesh played his future homeschool (IMSA) only at one tournament that year at the Wheaton Frosh-Soph Tournament, where he played the IMSA B-team (led by pre-scobol-dropout Yang-Yang Feng) once and the IMSA A team (then comprised of Adam Kalinich, Morenibayo Bankole II, Madhav Mohandas, and Rose Sloan) twice. Stevenson's first match against IMSA went badly, as signified by history expert Bayo's buzz on "gravity" which heralded the beginning of the end for that match. Stevenson then returned to meet IMSA in the finals, where Saieesh immortalized himself in IMSA memory by powering the first tossup of a devastating match in which Stevenson dealt IMSA its first loss of the season. The tossup, mentioning DNA analysis, the jungles of Guyana, and a comet like figure flying through the sky, hearkened Saieesh back to his childhood days of playing Pokemon and immediately reminded him of the opening scene to "Pokemon: The First Movie," leading Saieesh to buzz with "Mew." From that point on, Saieesh was then regarded as the "Pokemon Carry" at Stevenson. Although Saieesh had stopped playing Pokemon for a while, his Pokemon knowledge was still fresh due to his side-hobby of programming a fully functional Pokemon Game on his calculator. As the last tossup was inevitably a mythology question (as it always is in the Frosh-Soph circuit), teammate Michael Hu clinched the match, buzzing on the stock clue "barge" and answering with Ra.

Upon hearing of Saieesh's decision to transfer to IMSA in the fall, teammate Johnathan Kersky told Saieesh on the bus coming home that day that he shouldn't leave because "Stevenson is going to win three state championships next year (see Illinois Triple Crown)." Those words, however, proved themselves to be oddly ironic in the coming months, as IMSA's rise was just fermenting.


Saieesh first proved himself at IMSA's first practice of the year in late August when he singlehandedly answered an easy literature bonus on "Truman Capote/Breakfast at Tiffany's/In Cold Blood." He then led the IMSA A team in points at the 2010 Wheaton Kickoffs Tournament, which used geography-rich NAQT questions, due to his extensive geography knowledge. Although replaced as an A-team member by Adam Kalinich later in the year, Saieesh played an important role at the IHSA state series, in which he beat Kevin Malis (from his homeschool Stevenson) in a buzzer race to "Jasper Johns." IMSA later placed 3rd in the state Masonic Academic Bowl Tournament that year, but did not participate in the NAQT State Tournament due to the suspension of teammates Eric Ordonez and Webster Guan in the scandal known as "Trainagate," in which IMSA teacher Joseph Traina found a number of students operating a fake Facebook account in his name. Nevertheless, IMSA was able to topple the favored Stevenson team during the first round of the IHSA State Finals and claimed the championship, as well as third place at the Illinois Masonic Tournament and 13th at the 2011 NAQT HSNCT.

The coming year led to a decline in Saieesh's quizbowl activity due to his participation in a rigorous and time-consuming calculus elective at IMSA known as "BC-Fast," which precluded some of his time to go to quizbowl tournaments. Along with the meteoric rise of IMSA's Nolan Maloney,Eric Ordonez,Webster Guan, and Adam Kalinich, the A-team that year was set. Saieesh went 4-3 at the New Trier Scobol Solo that year, his first appearance, and helped the team repeat its IHSA championship victory.

In his senior year, Saieesh played various roles on both of IMSA's A and B teams. He got five tossups against Ladue at the Missouri Invitational Tournament in Columbia, Missouri, helping IMSA earn its only win against the #1 nationally ranked team that year. He was a Top 7 finalist at the Scobol Solo, making the wildcard slot as the player with a 5-2 record with the highest PPG. However, in team play, Saieesh's significant science and geogrpahy overlap with teammates Maia Karpovich and Siva Gangavarapu contributed to his mediocre stats throughout the season. When captaining B-team, however, Saieesh would score more impressively, such as at 2013 NAQT State Tournament when he was a top-10 individual scorer.


University of Chicago

Saieesh has kept up his quiz bowl involvement at the college level, playing at the Great Lakes Mirror of ACF Fall and at NAQT SCT alongside former rival Morgan Venkus; coincidentally, he was the 11th highest scorer overall at both tournaments, and he still received a copy of Uncle Tom's Cabin at ACF Fall for being 10th individually in the morning rounds. At the 2014 ICT, he and Morgan crusaded to 5th in Division II, a feat which almost didn't happen due to Morgan's unfortunate tardiness.

In his later years, Saieesh regularly attends tournaments that take place on the University of Chicago campus.