University of Illinois Lab

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University Laboratory High School
Urbana, IL
Club President Lawrence Zhao
Coaches Kaila Simpson
State Championships 2015 IHSA (A), 2019 IHSA (AA)
2018, 2020 NAQT (Small School and Overall)
2018, 2019, 2020 Masonic (AA)
National Appearances MSNCT: 2018
HSNCT: 2014, 2015, 2018, 2019, 2021
SSNCT: 2018
NSC: 2016, 2017, 2019, 2021
Program Status Active
School Size 250 students in grades 9–12
NAQT Page link
Not to be confused with Normal University High School or University of Chicago Laboratory School.

University of Illinois Laboratory High School, commonly known as "Uni" or "Uni Lab", is a public middle and high school on the University of Illinois campus in Urbana. Uni was the runner up at both the 2019 and 2021 HSNCTs and placed third at the 2019 PACE NSC. The team was coached by Chris Butler from 2012 to his retirement in 2021 and is now coached by Kaila Simpson. The team is also closely affiliated with the quizbowl team at the University of Illinois due to geographic proximity on the UIUC campus.

The Early Years (2012–2017)

The Uni High Scholastic Bowl team was founded in 2012 as the school trivia club and initially did not compete in tournaments. The team made its official quizbowl debut the following year, where they scored -5 points against IMSA in their very first game. Despite placing 30th out of 40 teams at the 2013 NAQT State Championship, they qualified for the 2014 and 2015 HSNCTs via other means and placed 201st and 145th respectively. In 2015, Uni won the Class A IHSA State Championship after a narrow victory against Peoria Christian.

In 2015, the IHSA moved Uni to the large school division for scholastic bowl (Class AA) despite Uni having only 250 students in its high school enrollment, due to IHSA's "success factor" policies for selective-admissions schools without set attendance zones. Under captain Andrew Stelzer, they placed second at the 2017 class AA IHSA tournament after defeating Rockford Auburn and Oak Park-River Forest in the preliminaries, then losing to IMSA in the final. At the NAQT State Championships, Uni placed 11th in 2016 and 9th in 2017.

Growth (2018-2019)

Uni largely went unnoticed until the team's strength began to grow in 2018, when they became recognized as a state contender in Illinois and a top-50 team nationwide. However, Uni lacked many opportunities to play state powerhouses like Auburn, IMSA, and Stevenson due to its geographic isolation.

While defending champion, Stevenson, was absent due to bad weather, the A team comprised of Tim Cho, Ethan Ashbrook, Dylan Bowman, and Jonathan Lau won the 2018 NAQT Illinois State Championship by narrowly defeating Rockford Auburn, becoming the first school from Downstate Illinois to win the event and the smallest ever school to win a large school or open division tournament in Illinois. Uni also became the first team to win the championship with all four starters posting over 20 PP20TUH. The following month, Uni clinched a first-place win over Latin in the Masonic tournament after losing to them in the finals of the previous two Masonic championships. Uni placed 5th at the 2018 SSNCT and 51st at the 2018 HSNCT.

That summer, team captain Tim Cho appeared on the Jeopardy! Teen Tournament in Culver City, California. After winning the quarterfinal game, he was eliminated in the semifinals by eventual champion Claire Sattler by just one dollar. Sattler had incorrectly answered a question about the meaning of the acronym "RPM" as "rotations per minute" rather than the correct meaning, "revolutions per minute"; however, the judges accepted her answer as correct which gave her just enough money to edge out Tim.

In 2018, Uni decided to attend tournaments in the Chicago Metro Area to play against tougher competition, winning the 2018 New Trier Varsity Tournament where they defeated Detroit Catholic Central for the first time. At the 2019 NAQT Illinois State Championship, Uni placed third after losses to Auburn and Stevenson, then won the 2019 Masonic tournament for the second time. At the 2019 IHSA State Championship, Uni won their first ever Class AA title after winning the championship match on a tiebreaker question against Rockford Auburn.

At the 2019 HSNCT, Uni went 8–2 in the preliminary rounds, then went on an undefeated streak in the playoffs before falling to Beavercreek in both the winners bracket final and the championship match. At the 2019 NSC, the team placed third overall after losing to eventual champion Thomas Jefferson and runner-up Katy Taylor, then defeating Montgomery Blair in the third-place game.

Continued National Success (2020-present)

Despite the loss of top history player Tim Cho, many people in the quizbowl community named Uni as the favorites to win the 2020 national season due to the impressive depth and generalism of Ethan Ashbrook and Dylan Bowman. On the 2019 Groger Ranks Preseason Poll, Uni was ranked first on all but two of the submitted ballots.

During the 2019-20 season, Uni played without a full team for the majority of their tournaments, but still managed to secure several victories against top teams in the region at tournaments such as Earlybird and WUFAT. At the 2019 New Trier Varsity tournament, they placed fourth after losses to Chattahoochee, Miami Valley, and Stevenson.

In the 2020 NAQT Illinois State Championship, Uni won a second title after defeating Stevenson twice in a disadvantaged final. In March, Uni placed first at the Masonic State Championship for the third consecutive time, then won their 5th consecutive IHSA regional title. With the cancellation of the remainder of the IHSA State Series, HSNCT and PACE shortly afterward due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the team's 2020 season came to an abrupt end.

In the 2020-21 preseason poll, Uni was ranked 26th overall, but omitted from many ballots. However, the A team ranked in the top 10-20 teams nationwide throughout the 2020-21 season due to significant improvement by players who had moved up from the previous year's B team. At the 2021 HSNCT, the team went undefeated in playoffs before falling to Barrington in two games of an advantaged final. At the 2021 PACE NSC, the team placed 16th after taking losses to Greenhill, Hunter, and Belmont. Uni has remained a top team nationwide in the 2021-22 season, placing 16th in the latest Groger Ranks midseason rankings.

National Results

  • 2014 HSNCT: 211th/272
  • 2015 HSNCT: 145th/272
  • 2016 NSC: 62nd/96
  • 2017 NSC: 51st/96
  • 2018 SSNCT 5th/64 (Open Division)
  • 2018 HSNCT: 51st/352
  • 2019 HSNCT: 2nd/336
  • 2019 NSC: 3rd/96
  • 2021 HSNCT: 2nd/224
  • 2021 NSC: 16th/80

All-State Honors

  • 2017 Second Team: Andrew Stelzer
  • 2018 First Team: Tim Cho
  • 2019 First Team: Ethan Ashbrook, Dylan Bowman, Tim Cho
  • 2020 First Team: Ethan Ashbrook, Dylan Bowman, Jonathan Lau

Players on Team Illinois

  • 2018 Illinois B (T-13): Ethan Ashbrook
  • 2019 Illinois A (1st): Ethan Ashbrook
  • 2019 Illinois B (5th): Dylan Bowman, Tim Cho, Jonathan Lau
  • 2020 Illinois A (cancelled): Ethan Ashbrook, Dylan Bowman, Jonathan Lau
  • 2021 Illinois B (11th): Lawrence Zhao

External Links