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Best at the bee: La Jolla students fly high at regional history competition

Jacob DeMott, Colin Crowder, Rhett Peck-Pugh and Luke DeMott (from left) show their history bee plaques and medals March 5.
Jacob DeMott, Colin Crowder, Rhett Peck-Pugh and Luke DeMott (from left) show their history bee plaques and medals at the regional finals March 5.
(Matt Pugh)

Four La Jolla boys created some buzz for themselves at the regional finals of the International Academic Competitions’ National History Bee.

La Jolla Elementary School fifth-grader Rhett Peck-Pugh took first place in the elementary school division of the regionals, held March 5 at USC.

Muirlands Middle School sixth-graders Jacob DeMott and Colin Crowder placed first and second, respectively, in the middle school division.

Muirlands eighth-grader Luke DeMott, Jacob’s brother, placed third in the eighth- and ninth-grade division.

La Jolla Elementary School fifth-grader Rhett Peck-Pugh won first place in the regional finals.
La Jolla Elementary School fifth-grader Rhett Peck-Pugh won first place in the elementary school division of the National History Bee regional finals.
(Matt Pugh)

The boys qualified for the history bee’s national championships to be held in June in Orlando, Fla. Rhett and Luke also qualified for the international competition, scheduled for July in Princeton, N.J.

Representatives of the bee did not respond to requests for comment.

The regional contest involved three rounds, with participants buzzing in their answers to questions asked by a moderator, Rhett said.

“It’s like a five-sentence question and people are able to buzz in at any point with an answer,” he said. Points are awarded for answering correctly, with more given “depending on when you answer.”

The questions are from all periods of history, Rhett said.

Doing so well feels “very good,” he said.

Colin agreed, saying, “I feel pretty proud of myself.”

Jacob joked that the boys wanted to participate in the history bee because “we always knew we were smart.”

To qualify for the regionals, they had to answer questions on a written test.

After qualifying, Rhett made flashcards from a lengthy study guide provided by the bee organizers, and his family helped him memorize them to prepare for the competition.

“The parts of history that he enjoys he didn’t need to study anyway,” said Rhett’s father, Matt Pugh. “He knows more about it than I do.”

Luke said the study guide contained questions from previous history bees, from which he made computer flashcards.

Colin said his Muirlands sixth-grade world history class prepared him well for the questions about ancient history.

All four boys said they have always been interested in history; Rhett said the party for his fifth birthday had a World War I theme.

Luke said all the boys are “particularly interested in battles,” though Jacob argued that their interests have broadened over time.

“History teaches us about our past,” Colin said. “We can learn from our mistakes.”

He said his great-grandfather was a mechanic for the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force. “My grandparents always told me stories about him, so I became curious and I started learning about World War II and then branched out to World War I and all the other crazy things in between.”

Jacob said he became interested in history in second grade when he learned about the American Revolution. The movie “Pirates of the Caribbean” sparked his historical interest even more.

Luke said he’s “always been interested in geography, which is really incorporated with history.”

“The only person I know in my family who has such a big love for history is my grandfather on my mom’s side,” Rhett said. “I realized a couple of years into my obsession that he likes it, too.”

Jacob, Colin and Luke plan to compete in the national championships. Jacob said the questions will be similar to those in the regionals: “You can’t really make history harder. It’s stuff that’s already happened.”

Rhett will not attend the national competition because he’ll be away at camp, but he will be in the international contest. ◆