Brennen Milley did not have to get the final answer correct.
His Cayman Prep School team already had a one-point advantage over Cayman International School when the last of the 20 questions in the championship round of the annual KPMG Brain Bowl rolled around. The day-long competition, sponsored by the accounting and consulting firm, was held Wednesday at the Marriott Beach Resort.
CIS buzzed in first, but may have overthought its answer to the question: What is the deepest point in the Caribbean Sea?
The team came up with the Mariana Trench, the deepest point in all the world’s oceans, but which is located in the Pacific. That kicked control to the Cayman Prep team. Brennen, 16, leaned into the mic and nailed it: “The Cayman Trench.”
He and his teammates celebrated with high-fives and smiles. The same group of four students placed third in last year’s battle of the minds. That experience was beneficial, said Samiran Saha, 15.
“We knew the rules and we were familiar with the venue, so we were a little less nervous,” she said.
Nerves were pretty much the order of the day as all 12 high schools in the Cayman Islands faced a barrage of questions on geography, mathematics, science, literature, art, religion and general knowledge.
“I was dying up there,” said Okezie Eleweanya, 12, of Cayman Academy, after correctly answering a string of questions to help win an early round for his team. His anxiety almost got the best of him, he said. “I thought I was going to faint. Now I know what it feels like to have a stroke.”
Those feelings were not limited to the competitors. Hope Academy coach Jacquie Armstrong said she was probably more nervous than her students.
“My heart’s been pounding out of my chest,” said the eighth grade teacher. “I’ve been sending things back to school and saying, ‘I don’t know if I can take this.’”
This was the sixth year for the event and the first in which every high school in the country was represented.
“The fact we got all 12 high schools together to celebrate academic achievement is really important,” Ms. Armstrong said.
KPMG’s Cindy Reid initiated the contest six years ago. Adding Wesleyan Christian Academy this year to complete the representation of all secondary schools, both public and private, was a milestone.
“It’s like a breath of fresh air,” Ms. Reid said. “I had this dream years and years ago and each year it gets bigger and better. I thought it would be a way to unite everybody, to stretch the academics.”
The “Jeopardy” type competition pits four-member teams against one another. A moderator asks a question and students buzz in if they think they have the answer. If that answer is incorrect, the opposing team gets a chance to answer. KPMG purchases the Brain Bowl questions from a U.S. company.
Ms. Reid said she reads every one and picks the ones best suited for Cayman students.
Next year, she said, she hopes to do a live feed of the event, so that students’ families can watch the action.
KPMG partner Sheenah Hislop said the event gives students a chance to meet and network with their peers at other schools. There are also some professional aspects to the contest.
“We always have students contact us and say, ‘Can we come work with you?’” Ms. Hislop said. “We do connect with a bunch of kids. It’s another way for us to help them.”
Most important, said Ms. Reid, is it opens students’ eyes a little more.
“If they learn one new thing today, we’ve done our job,” Ms. Reid said.
Cayman Prep team member Aiden Watler, 14, said he not only learned a lesson in remaining composed under pressure, but also discovered some abilities he did not know he had.
“It’s surprising when you’re under pressure how quickly you can think,” Aiden said.
“It’s really amazing.”