University of Illinois Lab

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University of Illinois Laboratory High School
Urbana, IL
Club President Tim Cho, Dylan Bowman
Coaches Chris Butler
State Championships 2015 IHSA (A), 2019 IHSA (AA)
2018 NAQT(Small School and Overall)
2018, 2019 Masonic (AA)
National Appearances MSNCT: 2018
HSNCT: 2014, 2015, 2018, 2019
SSNCT: 2018
NSC: 2016, 2017, 2019
Program Status Active
School Size 325 students, 20-25 on A, B, and C Teams
NAQT Page link

Not to be confused with Normal University High School or University of Chicago Laboratory School

University of Illinois Laboratory High School, or "Uni", is a university-funded lab school on the University of Illinois campus in Urbana. It includes a composite year for 7th and 8th grades alongside the standard four years of high school. As a result, Uni's quiz bowl program includes both a middle school team and a high school team. Uni's quiz bowl teams are directly affiliated with the University of Illinois Academic Buzzer Team, with the latter often providing staff for high school tournaments that Uni attends or hosts.

Champaign County "Feeder" Schools

Nearly all Uni Quiz Bowl players attended local "bad quizbowl" schools, and many of them played in IESA leagues that used questions from Avery Enterprises and Questions Galore. However, one of Uni's private school "feeders", Next Generation School, placed T-13 at the 2017 MSNCT in their first (and only) year of pyramidal competition. Notable players from NGS included Tim Cho and Lawrence Zhao. Champaign Franklin Middle School is one of the main public school feeders, with more Uni students coming from Franklin than from any other public school. Franklin placed 4th at the state tournament in 2016, 3rd in 2017, and 4th in 2019. Notable players from Franklin include Dylan Bowman and Jonathan Lau.

The Early Years (2012-2017)

The Uni High Scholastic Bowl team first entered the local quiz bowl circuit in 2012 and has since expanded to include a B team and a C team, with about 20 active members on all teams. The team is coached by history teacher Chris Butler. Although the school is known "Uni High" throughout the Champaign-Urbana area, teams from other parts of the state tend to refer to it as "Uni Lab", "Urbana U-High", or "University Lab School". People from other parts of the country often confuse it for the University of Chicago Lab School at national championships.

Uni A made its debut at an unspecified tournament, where they scored a total of -5 points against IMSA in round 1. At the 2013 NAQT State Championship, they placed 30th. However, they qualified for the 2014 and 2015 HSNCTs due to other victories at downstate IL tournaments with weak fields. At the first two HSNCTs Uni attended, they failed to make the double-elimination playoffs both times. In 2015, Uni won the Class A IHSA State Championship after a narrow victory against Peoria Christian. However, Uni was not a top team at the state level overall among schools of all sizes, performing poorly at many tournaments with Chicago-area teams in its first three years of existence as a club.

Because of the IHSA's controversial success factor policies, Uni was moved up to class AA in 2015 because it is a selective-admissions and non-bounded school, despite having only 320 students. However, the influx of strong players such as Tim Cho, Ethan Ashbrook, and Dylan Bowman laid the foundations for a bright future. In its first appearance in the IHSA State AA Finals in 2016, Uni went 1-2 and thus did not qualify for playoffs. The team placed second at the 2017 class AA IHSA tournament, losing to IMSA 500-320 in the championship round after beating Carbondale, Auburn, and OPRF. At the NAQT State Championships, Uni placed 11th in 2016 and 9th in 2017. Despite this, Uni managed to become the runner-up at Masonic for both years, primarily because all the better teams were placed in Class AAA and Uni was placed in class AA. Even though Uni's performance started to improve, top teams in Illinois still saw them as a regional power rather than a state contender, and the team almost never showed up on national polls and rankings.

Into the Big Leagues (2018)


Uni A largely went unnoticed until the team's strength began to grow in 2018. The fall of 2017 saw the influx of over ten freshman, several of which played quizbowl at their middle schools. The addition of freshman Jonathan Lau to the A Team resulted in a near-complete coverage of the entire canon, as he filled in many of Tim and Dylan's holes in history and science, respectively. As Uni A began a long string of first-place wins with the IHSSBCA Kickoff at Mattoon, the team gradually began to make a breakthrough onto the national scene. Before long, Uni was universally recognized as a state contender by most top quiz bowl players and teams in Illinois. However, its geographic isolation from the other top teams and lack of administrative funding and support meant that Uni A rarely had the opportunity to play teams better than them, especially state powerhouses such as Auburn and Stevenson.

Success at NAQT State

In 2018, a team comprised of Tim Cho, Ethan Ashbrook, Dylan Bowman, and Jonathan Lau won the NAQT Illinois State Championship by narrowly defeating Auburn in an advantaged final 350-320, finishing out the tournament with a 12-1 record. Uni became the very first school from Downstate Illinois to win the event. With only about 320 students, it also became the smallest ever school to win a large school or open division tournament in Illinois. While defending champion, Stevenson, was not present because of poor weather and icy conditions, Uni also became the first team to win the championship with all four starters posting over 20 PP20TUH for the tournament.

Masonic Victory and IHSA misfortune

The following month, Uni clinched a first-place win over Latin in the Masonic tournament, which was its very first Masonic win. Uni then entered the IHSA State Series the next week. Because of gerrymandering to separate the top four seeds, Uni A was forced to travel roughly 100 miles north to Streator, where they breezed through the regional. At sectionals, which was just 20 minutes away, Uni cleared the field after a close shave with regional powerhouse Mahomet-Seymour.

At the IHSA State AA Championship, Uni was placed in the same pool as Stevenson and IMSA due to unfortunate luck with seeding. Uni fought hard against IMSA, evening out the score with just five questions to go. However, their hopes were crushed by IMSA sweeping the last five tossups. After beating Macomb, Uni faced off against Stevenson, and was soundly defeated 570-270. As a result, they did not even qualify for the fourth-place game, ending the team's hope of claiming the triple crown of Illinois state championships.

National Failures

At SSNCT, Uni placed 5th in the open division after a lackluster performance. 2018 also marked Uni's very first appearance in the HSNCT Playoffs. Uni played against Lexington in the very first round. Although Uni powered the first tossup, that proved to be their only power of the entire game, as the much stronger Lexington team easily defeated Uni 400-240. In the losers' bracket, Uni faced off against Carnegie Vanguard, which coincidentally was also a stronger team. Negging and lost buzzer races by Uni A eventually brough Uni's HSNCT playoff run to an end, resulting in an unfortunate 51st place finish. Due to financial constraints and a lack of support from administration, Uni was unable to attend PACE NSC or NHBB Nationals.

Individual Recognition

However, despite all the misfortune, 2018 marked the first appearance on the class AA All-State First Team (Tim Cho), as well as the first appearance on a NASAT team (Ethan Ashbrook on Illinois B). Tim Cho, Ethan Ashbrook, and Jonathan Lau were also selected for the local All-Sectional, again asserting Uni's position as the dominant Illinois team south of Chicago.

The Dark Horse Contender (2019)


A player poll conducted by Hanson Hao and Arjun Nageswaran during June of 2018 placed Uni Lab fourth in the state. However, the low number of votes (only eight) prevented a more accurate ranking. Later, coaches and players from all over the United States voted for the top 25 teams in the country. Uni Lab came in 23rd.

On September 29th, 2018, Uni placed second at the Illinois Earlybird. Junior Ethan Ashbrook impressed with his stunning performance and high power count. Back-to-back losses against IMSA resulted in a runner-up finish, although Uni A did manage to beat Stevenson A for the very first time.

Earlybird was also a bad day for Uni B. Because of losses to Glenbard North A (due to Uni B's history player being absent) and a loss to Latin B, Uni B finished out the day by clearing the field in Consolation II.

Success at Solo

In October, Arjun Nageswaran, William Groger, and John John Groger launched a new system of ranking teams, designed to be a relative ranking rather than an absolute one (such as Fred Morlan's HSQBrank. The first ranking placed Uni Lab in the #2 spot, mainly because several strong teams had not played a tournament yet. The next set of rankings placed Uni in the #6 spot, solidifying Uni's presence on the national playing field. However, the school's administration, despite their pride in the quiz bowl team, were unable to support the team in any way due to financial hurdles.

Despite these difficulties, the members of the Uni A team unanimously decided to attend tournaments in the Chicago Metro Area in the 2018-2019 season, to play against better teams and also to avoid trashing downstate tournaments with their nationally-ranked team. The first of these tournaments was the 2018 Scobol Solo, held at New Trier High School in Winnetka. Unfortunately, top scorer Ethan Ashbrook could not attend because of IHSA Cross Country Sectionals.

Dylan Bowman started out the day 4-0 before lunchtime, facing no significant opposition except from Barrington's Michelle Yang. He finished off the morning with the #1 Card. However, Jonathan Lau was soundly defeated by eventual champion Kevin Kodama 13-6 after a close shave with IMSA's Matthew Lee. Tim Cho unfortunately faced Ethan Strombeck in round 4, where Ethan defeated him 16-3. At lunchtime, Jonathan and Tim both had 3-1 records. Jonathan and Tim finished with the 14 and 10 cards, respectively.

In their fifth game, Tim Cho and Jonathan Lau defeated Isaiah Zillman and Abigail Bergan, respectively. However, #1 Dylan was defeated by #8 John Paul Taylor in a close game. Because Dylan now possessed the #8 card, it meant he unfortunately had to play #10 Tim Cho in round 13. Dylan ended up beating Tim 9-8, with the final tossup going dead. Jonathan, on the other hand, endured another close shave with Barrington's Abraham Holtermann, then avenged Dylan's loss to John Paul Taylor by beating him 12-6. Jonathan and Dylan's 6-1 records meant that they would both be in the finals, the very first players from Uni Lab to do so.

In the final game, Dylan was eliminated after 40 questions, finishing 6th. However, he managed to win four categories simultaneously due to his strong knowledge of Fine Arts, Chemistry, and Physics. Jonathan Lau narrowly escaped elimination by defeating Aristotle Vainikos in a sudden-death tiebreaker. After the third phase, Jonathan was eliminated along with Ethan. However, he boasted the second-highest conversion depth of any category champion in the tournament (25.3%, Biology), narrowly edged out by Kevin Kodama's 25.0% Conversion Depth in World History.

Winter Tournaments

On November 3rd, University Lab sent one team to the UIUC ACF Fall HS Mirror. Although they lost to Fremd in the prelims, they managed to keep their hope alive by decisively defeating IMSA, Auburn, and St. Joseph. A difficult loss against Detroit Catholic Central resulted in another game with Auburn, which they won despite Ethan Ashbrook's absence.

At the IHSSBCA Kickoff at Stevenson, University Lab A and B competed in the Über-Competetive division. Despite the absence of Ethan, they managed to beat IMSA for the second time in a row, and avenged their loss to Fremd by defeating them in the first round. Uni A finished 2nd after two losses to Stevenson, and Uni B finished 7th after two close shaves against Stevenson B and Hinsdale Central A.

The Uni quizbowl team finally achieved their first victory at the 2018 New Trier Varsity Tournament, with a 7-1 record. Although they lost to Chattahoochee, they managed to beat Stevenson a second time and clinch their first ever win against DCC.

In January, Jonathan Lau, Tim Cho, and members of the B and C teams participated in the 2019 Barron Robinson Memorial Tournament. Due to snowy weather, the 32-team tournament was postponed to the following Sunday, and the field shrank to sixteen teams in two divisions. Jonathan Lau captained Uni "A", boasting the highest power count and PPG in the entire tournament. Tim Cho captained Uni's "B" team and boasted the second highest power count and PPG, defeating the A team twice to take home the championship.

2019 State Series

At the 2019 NAQT Illinois State Championship, Uni placed first in the small school division and third overall after close losses against Stevenson and Auburn, who went on to play in the finals. Uni B placed second in the small school division and ninth overall. At the Masonic State Championships, Uni repeated their championship from the previous year by defeating Chicago Christian High School from Palos Heights, IL.

In the IHSA State Series, the team breezed through regionals and sectionals due to an absence of competition in Downstate Illinois. The team advanced to their sixth consecutive appearance at the IHSA state tournament, hoping to improve on their poor performance the previous year. Once again, the team started the day with a match against IMSA, but unlike in 2018, Uni narrowly clinched a victory by roughly 120 points. In the next game, Uni faced off against Carl Sandburg High School, captained by Aristotle Vainikos, a top generalist. At halftime, the score was tied 220-220. However, Uni nearly swept the second half to win the game by more than 300 points. After a quick victory against Springfield, the team faced perennial powerhouse Rockford Auburn in the finals. At tossup 20, the game was tied at 390 points. After a neg from Auburn, Dylan Bowman negged in return, thus, the score remained tied at 390. However, Dylan Bowman correctly answered the tiebreaker, and the team worked together to score 30 points on the bonus, clinching their first 2A state title with a score of 430-390.

2019 Nationals

Uni was not expected to do as well at the 2019 HSNCT due to their greater strength in the mACF distribution, nevertheless, they were still considered a dark horse contender for the national title. At the 2019 HSNCT, Uni went 8-2 in the preliminary rounds, with losses to Vestavia Hills and Ladue. In the playoffs, Uni easily defeated Friends Select, guaranteeing a better finish than in 2018, before winning a close shave with Strake Jesuit. The team went on to defeat other nationally competitive teams such as High Tech and Arcadia, clinching a spot in the top twelve. In the following game, Uni defeated the tournament favorites TJHSST A, boasting a stat line of 9/7/1. This guaranteed Uni's entrance into the top seven teams. A difficult loss to Beavercreek in the winners bracket final meant that Uni would start the evening rounds with the second seed. Uni started the evening rounds by eliminating #7 seed [Ithaca], then defeating their in-state rivals Adlai E. Stevenson A in the semifinal. In the other semifinal game, Chattahoochee defeated Beavercreek, which meant that Uni and Chattahoochee would play for the right to face Beavercreek in the final game. Chattahoochee was soundly defeated after a series of unfortunate negs. This guaranteed that Uni's performance would be the best of any Illinois team in HSNCT history, besting the 2013 Loyola Academy team's 3rd place finish. In the final game, Uni trailed Beavercreek for most of the first half, but managed to close the gap to just 40 points by halftime. However, Beavercreek stalled through the second half and swept the last three cycles, earning the national title with a score of 415-260.

Uni came into the 2019 NSC with an expectation of finishing with a high placement. Uni went undefeated in the 12 Saturday placement games, securing their spot in the top superplayoffs bracket. On Sunday, Uni defeated Rockford Auburn by just ten points, before avenging their HSNCT loss to Beavercreek by soundly defeating them. In the next three consecutive rounds, Uni was defeated by Montgomery Blair, TJHSST, and James E. Taylor before defeating High Tech. This left them with an identical record to Montgomery Blair, whom they defeated in the tiebreaker to finish third.

Other Notes

Uni is the only school in the state of Illinois with IHSA State titles in both class A and AA.
Uni students assisted the University of Illinois quizbowl team in writing the 2019 ILLIAC set. Ethan Ashbrook wrote RMP, literature, and social science. Dylan Bowman wrote Fine Arts, Chemistry, and Physics. Tim Cho wrote American and European history, while Jonathan Lau wrote Biology, Other Science, World History, and Geography. Sasha Rushing and Lawrence Zhao of Uni B wrote in History and Science, respectively.
Uni is the smallest school in quizbowl history to make the top 4 at both HSNCT and PACE.

Tim Cho Jeopardy Appearance

In 2018, Tim Cho (Class of 2019) appeared on the Jeopardy! Teen Tournament, where he was eliminated in the semifinals by eventual champion Claire Sattler. He won a total of $10,000.

University Lab roster

Seniors (Class of 2020)

  • Dylan Bowman (President)
  • Ethan Ashbrook
  • Matthew Tang
  • Sasha Rushing

Juniors (Class of 2021)

  • Jonathan Lau
  • Zachary Donnini
  • Caitlin Mamaril
  • Joel Armas


Sophomores (Class of 2022)

  • Lawrence Zhao
  • Elijah Song
  • Zhaohan Sun
  • Jake Regenwetter
  • Akhil Vytla
  • Ryland Graham
  • Angel Hyunh
  • Ekaterina Urbanovich
  • Lynette Zhang

Freshmen (Class of 2023)

  • Emma Donnini
  • Elan Pan
  • Arjun Kala
  • Seyed Dastghieb
  • Saniya Luthar
  • Jeana To
  • Andrew Kim
  • Emily Chen
  • Nate Jones
  • Janaki Kapadia

Other Players (Class of 2024)

  • Ryan He
  • Knox Mynatt
  • Maya Viswanathan
  • Priya Haran
  • Marco Lu
  • Grace To
  • Dmitri Sakhartov
  • Jesse Wald
  • Nathaniel Wiesbrook
  • Miranda Burgos
  • Kacy Waldhoff
  • Annie Bilderbach
  • Shreyas Singh
  • John Christian Butler

Other Notable People

  • Brad McLain
  • Iain Carpenter


(C) Captain

(A) Alternate Captain


  • Reed Phillips (2018)
  • Vinay Koshy (Captain, 2014-15)
  • Ben Schiffer (2016)
  • Troy Xu (2014)
  • Sofia Carillo (2015)
  • Joshua Meling (2014)
  • Bruce Li (2015)
  • Darren Liu (2015)
  • Sally Pennacchi (2015)
  • Nick Shapland (2015)
  • Jack Zieders (2015)
  • Nicholas Liu (2016)
  • Justin Wang (2016)
  • Grant DeAtley (2015)
  • Tommy Song (2015)
  • Caroline Gilette (Captain, 2017)
  • Andrew Stelzer (Captain, 2016-17)
  • Matthew Reeder (2017)
  • Emma Roese (2017)
  • Sarah Grunisich (2017)
  • Krishna Subbiah (2019)
  • Lawrence Taritsa (2019)
  • Martin Dalling (2019)
  • Tim Cho (Captain, 2018-19)
  • Robert Nagel (2019)
  • Lia Dankowicz (2019)
  • Srijan Shukla (2019, transferred)
  • Andy Tang (2019, transferred)

Notable Tournament Performances

2015 IHSA State Champions, Class A
2017 IHSA State Runner-Up, Class AA (moved from Class A in 2016)
2017 Barron Robinson Memorial Champions 2017 Masonic State Runner-Up, Class AA
2017 Inaugural South Central Solo: 2nd place, 3rd place, 5th place
2017 IHSSBCA Kickoff at Mattoon Champions
2018 Piasa Bird Invitational Champions
2018 Barron Robinson Memorial Champions
2018 NAQT Illinois State Champions
2018 Masonic State Champions, Class AA
2018 Scobol Solo, 2 Finalists (Fourth Place and Sixth Place)
2018 UIUC Earlybird Runner-Up
2018 ACF Fall UIUC HS Mirror Runner-Up
2018 IHSSBCA Kickoff at Stevenson Runner-Up
2018 New Trier Varsity Champions
2019 Barron Robinson Champions and Runners-Up
2019 NAQT State Championship Small School Champions (3rd overall)
2019 Masonic State Champions (AA)
2019 IHSA State Champions (AA)
2019 HSNCT Runner-Up 2019 PACE NSC 3rd Place

National Performances

2014 HSNCT: 211th/272
2015 HSNCT: 145th/272
2016 NSC: 62nd/96
2017 NSC: 51st/96
2018 SSNCT Open Division: 5th/64
2018 HSNCT: T51st/352
2018 NASAT: 13th (Ethan Ashbrook of Illinois B) 2019 HSNCT: Runner-Up 2019 NSC: 3rd Place 2019 NASAT: Champions (Ethan Ashbrook of Illinois A) 2019 NASAT: 5th (Tim, Jonathan, and Dylan of Illinois B)

External Links