When I was in high school I thought that my quiz bowl team getting third or fourth out of seven at a tournament in the next county over was a good showing. Now, as of last weekend, a William & Mary team can truthfully say it got a second-place showing at Virginia Tech’s iteration of the Stevenson Memorial Tournament.

It would be horrifically dishonest of me to say that this was solely or even mostly my doing. I was on a team of three people, and I was the one who scored the least. That isn’t to say I didn’t hold my own; I powered thrice and answered several other tossups, and contributed to the group bonuses. But it was my team’s victory, not mine. They knew literature and science to an extent I simply did not, and three of my tossups were guesses on science topics.

But even so, there is a sense of triumph in this for me. William & Mary’s quiz bowl team was not blessed with the money or the location that the great teams of the East Coast, like Georgetown or Maryland or Virginia or Duke.

We are a small school, not the massive academies that those schools are, and are not located within a major metropolitan area. Transport to anywhere farther than Richmond is long and expensive; indeed it was a four and a half hour drive to Blacksburg each way, and this was a trip over the span of three days.

And yet we went toe to toe against the finest that Duke had to offer, and put up a fair fight. We’d run into them before at other tournaments, and every time they met us in whatever room we were in, they wiped the floor with us.

Up until then, William & Mary’s greatest success was at a tournament in Roanoke where we competed against mostly bar trivia teams. We lost only one round, and none in the finals.

But there, in Blacksburg, we weren’t the top scorers, but we were locked in a battle of wits with the one man on Duke’s team right until the bitter end. I can’t reveal the content of questions at this tournament since it is not yet clear, but I can say that it was something that might have been in our wheelhouse. We were in a hair of winning.

But the fact that we had gotten that far was already impressive. More so the fact that we did so without our generalist captain, who knows enough to fill a good few encyclopedias, or so I’m convinced. We did so without any science specialists. And we nearly gave Duke a run for its money.

If I’m right, this is the beginning of William & Mary as a truly competitive team on the Mid-Atlantic circuit in a way that can stand up to the bigger schools. It’s exciting, but also nerve-wracking. Will we be able to seize upon this opportunity? I can’t say I know, and certainly not at this junction.