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A Solid Finish at Yale and Lifelong Memories of New York for Northside’s Certamen Team

A Solid Finish at Yale and Lifelong Memories of New York for Northside’s Certamen Team

By Alicja Ramotowski

Certamen is one of Northside’s most popular and successful student groups. But what exactly is Certamen? Camille Roberts, Adv. 010, said, “Certamen is like quizbowl that tests the players on their knowledge of Roman history, grammar, mythology, and literature! The competition is a nationwide competition where the school and the country come to see whose team is the best!” From Nov. 2-4, the team made their way to another competition, this time at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, hosted by Yale’s Classics Department. The students met at O’Hare airport at 4 am on Friday, Nov. 2, took a plane to New York City where they spent the morning getting settled at the Roosevelt Hotel, and later explored the city. The group visited the 9/11 memorial and after paying their respects, headed over to Battery Park—a 25 acre park named after the artillery batteries that were placed in the area during New York’s early years to protect the area. The team concluded the day with dinner in Chinatown before heading back to the hotel for some rest.

The next day the competition fun really began after a three hour train ride. The format of the competition was as follows: four people formed a team, working together to earn a maximum of 400 points. Points are awarded to teams for answering questions which can be “tossups” or “bonuses.” A “tossup” is worth ten points, and is followed by two “bonus” questions worth five points, each to the team that answered the “tossup” question correctly. Teams have an opportunity to answer 20 “tossup” questions per round.  To answer a “tossup” question, one member of a team must buzz in without consulting with the rest of his or her team. If the question is answered correctly, the whole team can work to answer the two bonus questions, with a 15 second time limit on each bonus question.

Each team specializes in specific subject areas and competes in one of the three levels of Certamen based on a student’s level of Latin: Novice (Latin I), Lower (Latin II), or Upper (Latin III+). The subject areas at the novice and lower level are Latin Grammar, Roman History, Greco-Roman Mythology, and Roman Culture. At the upper level, all subjects are the same, but Roman Culture is replaced with Latin Literature.

There are three rounds of initial “qualifying” play. These rounds consist of three teams playing against each other. After the rounds are over, all the points are added up and the top nine teams in each level move onto a semifinals round. Once again, the round consists of three teams. The team that scores the most points in their round of semifinals moves on to the final round. The anticipation builds, and the final round of three teams battling for the title of champion is held in the auditorium with everyone else watching.

This time around, Northside’s Certamen only had one lower team and two upper teams in the running. Surrounded by tough competition, Northside held their ground, with one of the upper teams securing an eighth place finish, and the lower team finishing strong in seventh. After an exhausting and exhilarating day of competition, the students headed over to an Ethiopian restaurant to celebrate over dinner.

The next and final day in New York was jam packed with events. First the team visited the Greco-Roman exhibit in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Next was a rushed walk through Central Park on the way to a lunch reservation at Buca di Beppo, an Italian restaurant which senior Certamen member Vasim Patel, Adv. 904, said had, “the most amazing pasta in the world.” After a quick meal, the group saw Mean Girls on Broadway, which Younes Deiban, Adv. 907, said “along with being a fantastic performance, complemented the material we were covering in class (i.e. love poems by the ancient Roman poet Catullus).” Afterwards, the group headed over to Times Square. There was time to take pictures and watch street performers before a quick meal at Grand Central Station, and back to the airport to catch their flight back to O’Hare. Despite the hour and a half delay on the return flight, Roberts said, “Our trip was really fun and our teams made it to semifinals which was awesome!”


Northside’s Certamen has been attending competitions for over five years now. It is a great way for students to learn, have fun and travel together. Deiban, said “All teams performed well and we loved to see the NCP alumni & current Yale students who ran the tournament along with competitors and friends from other states.” This particular event was attended by 18 students, and four adult chaperones who all had a blast. Upcoming events include a state competition in February, and a trip to Harvard this spring; the fun never ends!

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