November 12th, 2011 | University

High school classics competition rages

The tournament's poster, featuring artwork by Andrew Sotiriou '13.
The tournament's poster, featuring artwork by Andrew Sotiriou '13. Photo by Certamen.

“Translate ‘remain’ in the following sentence: If Catiline should rem…” BUZZ.

The reader can’t even get the whole question out before a player pounces on the buzzer, hoping to win eternal glory for himself and his team. This is common at Certamen tournaments across the nation, and is now common at Yale, which got its first taste of classical blood, sweat and tears this weekend at the first-ever Yale Champion’s League of Certamen tournament this weekend. Organized by Benjamin VanGelder ’13 and Jane Darby Menton ’15, the competition ran from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Saturday and attracted participants from the entire country.

Similar to the better-known sport of Academic Bowl, Certamen pits three teams of four against each other in a competition designed to test knowledge of the classics, from Latin translation to Roman history. Though Certamen is often played at Latin conventions and high schools, hosting the game at a university is not unprecedented, Menton said. Harvard has hosted a similar event in the spring for the past two years, and many Harvard students who knew the organizers came to New Haven to help out at the tournament, Menton said.

The tournament drew top-notch teams from across the country, including Florida, Texas and Virginia, Menton said. Approximately twenty schools attended, most of them entering teams in multiple divisions (competition brackets based on the number of years of Latin the competitors have completed). Three of these teams included players who have won national championships.

So understandably, one of the event’s distinguishing features was the intensity of the competition. But, as several of these competitive classicists told me, this intensity made the tournament one of the most enjoyable they had been to.