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'Jeopardy!' Champ Starts History Bowl at RHS

Tri-State History Bowl debuts at Ridgewood High School May 22.

David Madden has worn many hats—genealogist, art author and 19-time Jeopardy! champion. The 1999 Ridgewood High School graduate returns to his village and quiz show roots with his latest initiative.

Madden will launch the inaugural Tri-State History Bowl at Ridgewood High School May 22. Featuring 16 teams from 10 to 15 schools in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut, the tournament gives teenaged history buffs a chance to compete against regional peers.

"There's geography, spelling, math, and marketing competitions for high school students, but nothing like this for history," Madden said at the Ridgewood Coffee Company. "It's very blatantly meant to be fun but extremely competitive."

With the second most wins in Jeopardy! history (behind only Ken Jennings), Madden has chalked up an interesting resume. After his 2005 TV success, he finished his masters in international relations in Europe. Then in late 2007 to early 2008, Madden hiked from Maine to Florida, finishing his continental trek in Key West.

While working on his teacher's certification, Madden is finishing up a book on artist Richard Anuszkiewicz—a pioneer in the op-art movement. He also pays the bills as a licensed genealogist.

Madden originally devised the history bowl working in Europe.

"I got the idea while overseas... I thought a history bowl was something I can put together, as I'm going into teaching," he said. "And our course with my quiz bowl and Jeopardy! experience I felt pretty capable."

The tournament is divided into individual and team brackets with preliminary rounds starting the day, before it kicks into a Sweet 16-style format. Questions touch on U.S., European and world history. Some early rounds rely on a format akin to Jeopardy! with questions broken off into categories. The tournament itself is more reminiscent of quiz bowl formats, with  a variety of different topics.

Scholarships will be awarded to the top two teams and other prizes will be given to the individual winners.

Madden said he wanted questions to be more than just names and dates, which get their due justice. Cultural events and the broader significance of movements were important. Madden made sure to appropriately honor women and minority histories, as well.

With private, public and magnet schools participating, Madden is pleased with the diverse line-up the initial history bowl offers. "It's always fun to have a variety of schools from around the area coming together for an event," he said.

Schools from Paramus, Hackensack and Flemington are some participants from New Jersey with Ardsley High School and Horace Greeley in New York and Danbury in Connecticut. 

Currently, Madden is working to finish up the questions (totally around 2,000) and get the word out. He contacted many area schools and would love to include more. Additionally, he's taken sponsorships from individuals and businesses, with the Genealogical Society of New Jersey serving as principle sponsor. People can e-mail 2010tshb@gmail.com for more information. Madden said $25 qualifies you as a corporate sponsor.

For the Saturday program, Madden said he couldn't have done this without the high school. "The high school staff and Principal Jack Lorenz have been really great. I couldn't be more grateful to them."

In the future, Madden wants to take the tournaments nationwide. "Over the course of the next several years, I'm looking to do a tournament like this all over the country." 

Madden is 85 to 90 percent sure he'll have regional finals next year, with the ultimate goal of a national finals up in the air.

For more information, visit the Tri-State History Bowl's Web site.

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