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Posted on Thu, Mar 25, 2010 : 6 a.m.

Ann Arbor students shine in Michigan Japanese Quiz Bowl competition

By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

Congratulations to our Ann Arbor students who reached the finals of the 17th annual Michigan Japanese Quiz Bowl competition this past Saturday at the University of Michigan. These students rose to the top of the 380 students from 26 elementary and secondary schools from across the state in a competition showcasing their knowledge of Japanese language and culture. The teams were divided into six different divisions, depending on the number of hours of Japanese language instruction they have received.

From Emerson School and taught by Kayo Nakamura: Rephael Berkooz, Powel Kazanjian, Hayden Braun, Truman Stovall, Alex Drain (Elementary Division First Place); Jake Hutnik, Emi Maren, Grace Newman, Ethan Steiner, Daria Chamness (Elementary Division Second Place); Therese Larson, Katy Ross, Eli Knapp, Nani Wolf, Haley Nusbaum (Division I Middle School First Place); Zane Phillips, Ben Giampetroni, Duncan Braun, Claire Hughes, Gabbie Keen (Division III First Place); and Elijah Reische, Ben Freedman, Emily Newman, Olga Sokolova (Division III Second Place). The Division III students were tickled when they were mistakenly announced as “Emerson High School” because the teams they beat were all high school students, not an easy achievement for seventh and eighth graders.

Representing Ohara Language School and taught by Kaori Ohara were Clague Middle School students Samantha Liu and Hao Hao Wang Pontius (Division II Second Place). Division II was the largest division, with 25 teams competing, and the tightest point spread.

Representing Emerson School Alumni were Community High School student Miles Grofsorean and Huron High School student Margot Wang Pontius who took second in Division IV, the highest level of competition, to Novi High School in a difficult and dizzyingly high-speed final round.

Other students attending Pioneer High School, Skyline High School, Dexter High School and Saline High School also competed for Emerson School Alumni and Ohara Language School.

There were also contests for poster, display and T-shirt design, and Philip Ognevoski and Grant Khen of Emerson School won first place in the display contest.

In an e-mail, Emerson's Kayo Nakamura wrote: "All my students did a great job and had a wonderful time competing in Japanese quizzes. I am proud of every one of my students....with their hard work, high performance and love for Japanese."

University of Michigan Center for Japanese Studies Program Associate Jane Ozanich reports in an e-mail that in addition to the 380 students from 26 K-12 schools that competed this year, "Twenty-nine volunteer judges from universities, private schools, and the community took part in the event; Fifty-three university students and community members served as scorekeepers, timekeepers and scoresheet runners; Tens of parents and community volunteers assisted as well."

Michigan Japanese Quiz Bowl is directed and co-sponsored by the University of Michigan’s Center for Japanese Studies and the Japanese Teachers’ Association of Michigan (JTAM), with support from the Consulate General of Japan in Detroit and the Japan Business Society of Detroit.

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang is a second-generation Chinese American from California who now divides her time between Ann Arbor and the Big Island of Hawaii. She is editor of Asian American Village, lead multicultural contributor for and a contributor for New America Media's Ethnoblog. She is a popular speaker on Asian Pacific American and multicultural issues. Check out her Web site at, her blog at and reach her at