Hitting the road: UK clubs that travel

Kaitlyn Skaggs

At the University of Kentucky, it is not just athletic teams that travel out of state for competitions — successful clubs and organizations compete on sometimes national levels traveling as far away as Illinois or Minnesota.

UK senior Garrison Page, president of the UK Quiz Bowl team, found himself drawn to the academic competition aspect of Quiz Bowl when he joined his school’s team in eighth grade. He remained a committed member throughout his high school career naturally as a lover of trivia and reading. Page joined as a freshman at UK and after his first year on the university’s Quiz Bowl team, he became president.

Last semester, the Quiz Bowl team traveled to tournaments in Illinois, Ohio and Louisville, Kentucky, with the two out-of-state tournaments being nationally recognized competitions. Usually, the organization tries to compete in three tournaments a semester and organize one for high school students to attend, as both a fundraiser and a way of recruiting future members.

The ACF Nationals tournament in Minnesota might require potential air travel plans since it would be a 16-hour drive otherwise. For their regular tournaments, however, the Quiz Bowl team has traveled by roads.

“Typically, we just drive to these tournaments and organize people by car or by team and reimburse drivers for their fuel spent. We kind of run pretty efficiently in terms of that,” Page said.

Traveling for tournaments poses a love-hate relationship for some, however.

“To save money, we’ll wake up at the crack of dawn, often before 5 a.m. sometimes, to make it to a tournament a day away without having to rent a hotel room,” UK graduate student and longtime Quiz Bowl team member Austin Smith said. “But the friendships I’ve made from those long drives are irreplaceable.”

The Quiz Bowl organization raises money to reimburse its drivers and pay for registration by hosting fundraisers and obtaining Student Government grants from UK.

“I think we’re going to end up eating the entire grant with just registrations,” Page said. “The rest [of the funds] will probably have to come from our tournament we host in the spring and the tournament we hosted last fall for the high schoolers.”

The Mock Trial club, another UK organization that travels out of state for competitions, recently got a bid to attend the opening rounds championship in Atlanta. The organization’s president, junior Chris Beebout, found his club through Campus Ruckus as a freshman and now leads the organization.

There are typically two tournaments during the first semester and two the second semester of every academic year. Beebout has experienced three different types of competition seasons, spanning from fully in-person to fully online to this year’s hybrid tournament season.

The tournament they attended, held at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, has thus far been the only in-person tournament they’ve been to this year. With a bid to the opening rounds championship in two weeks, the Mock Trial team can expect to travel a bit more before finishing off their competition season.

Holding tournaments virtually has allowed the Mock Trial team to compete against schools they wouldn’t have otherwise met.

“We go against teams all over the place, especially in our virtual tournaments,” Beebout said. “We see all sorts of schools and some pretty elite schools as well. We’ve gone against some Ivy Leagues, that kind of thing. That’s always really fun.”

As an entirely student-led program, the Mock Trial team does all of their organizing themselves: gathering materials and inventory, lining up drivers for the trek to out-of-state tournaments and renting Red Roof Inns for the night.

The funding of their travels typically varies year to year. The 2020-21 academic year’s tournaments were fully on Zoom and prohibited the team from holding a fundraiser.

“If we have our Mock Trial team members judge high school tournaments, like volunteer to help out at them, we get paid for that. We bring in little different side hustles here and there to bring in money,” Mock Trial vice president and senior Molly Cooke said.

What the year’s funds can’t cover, team members have to pay on their own. If those members are unable to fully fund their way to the competition, though, they should not necessarily give up hope of attending.

“We are always willing to talk with team members to make flexible payment plans for membership or travel so that finances are never a barrier to participation,” Beebout said.

As for more sports-oriented organizations, the UK Women’s Ultimate Frisbee club traveled for tournaments three times last semester, once to Indiana and twice to Michigan. This semester, they have already traveled to Tennessee and plan on making their way to Ohio and Indiana.

Comprised of three presidents, the Women’s Ultimate Frisbee club, also known by their unofficial team name of Monarchy, is led by captain Molly Merchant as well as Tori McCormick and Kate Rhodes.

“As president, I share the responsibility with two other presidents while we work to coordinate travel accommodations, bid fees for tournaments, dues, field reservations for practices and anything outside of the actual game play,” Merchant said. “The captain’s role, on the other hand, oversees the actions on the field, such as who is playing, motivating the team and leading the team.”

The team competes once a month, and the travel for out-of-state tournaments is organized by the presidents. In order to fund its travels, the Women’s Ultimate Frisbee club uses club sports sponsorships, player dues and even held a fundraiser tournament last semester.

With their last two tournaments being held in Ohio and Indiana along with a chance to compete in the national tournament in California, Merchant is hopeful and grateful.

“As a team member I have made lifelong friends. Not only does each player have different identities, but we have also learned and formed a love for Ultimate Frisbee in a different capacity,” Merchant said. “We hope to get better but ultimately win [the tournaments] and use that work for nationals in California.”