Japan Bowl National Winners: Pictured left to right are
Brandon Patterson, Emilia Blaser, Chesarae Wheeler, Brett Norris, Ali Retson
and Melissa Dittmann. The CHS students are holding their trophy, a plaque on
which the team's name will be written, and autographs of Musashimaru (the
sumo grand champion).
By ALEXANDRA NEWMAN
Fourth year members of the Chesterton High School Japan Bowl Team once again
won the National Competition in Washington D.C. and are ready again to visit
Brett Norris, Ali Retson and Chesarae Wheeler won the national title when
they were second year students, and, as an award, were treated to a 10 day
trip to Japan. As seniors, they took the title again and get to revisit
Japan this summer.
The trio won the state competition their second, third and fourth years and
the nationals their second and fourth years as Japanese Bowl contestants.
Last year they placed seventh at nationals.
In addition, this year, a second team from CHS, sophomores, Emilia Blaser,
Melissa Dittmann and Brandon Patterson, placed fourth nationally, losing
their chance for the championship round by only one point. It was their
first time to compete. First year students are not invited to the
Thirty-five schools from the U.S. were represented, some with multiple teams
like Chesterton, having won their respective state championships.
They had to translate proverbs, answer questions about the culture, history
and Kanji writing, a form of Chinese characters.
“Our goal was to do our best. We didn’t even imagine we would win twice,”
Brett Norris told the Chesterton Tribune in a telephone interview.
“I’m proud of the work we put into it,” he added.
Norris said he learned his weakness is listening. “It is difficult to
understand someone who speaks the language fluidly. I have to develop the
skills to catch all that is said by a native speaker,” he said when asked
what was most difficult this time.
Norris said as they progress through the rounds, questions become more
difficult. In the final round, the team could not answer all questions, but
then, neither could any of the other teams.
After the rounds, those asking the questions show contestants what they
“So we not only compete, but we also learn,” Norris said.
Retson said the most difficult challenge was translating the proverbs and
choosing which proverb fit the situation.
“We had to remember all the proverbs, so we could make the translation,” she
Both Retson and Norris were impressed with being asked questions by
Musashimaru, one of Japans most famous Sumo wrestlers.
“He was huge,” Norris said, echoed by Retson. Musashimaru, like most Sumo
wrestlers, weighs 500 lbs.
During the opportunity at cultural activities, Patterson tried his skill at
Sumo wrestling and went two rounds.
The CHS students arrived in D.C. Saturday morning in time to visit the
Cherry Blossom Festival. The Cherry trees were a gift from Tokyo in the
1920s, explained John Sparks, CHS Japanese language teacher and coach.
“The blossoms are at their peak during the festival,” he said. The festival
features musical performances, food and arts and crafts.
“We were all pretty keyed up for the contest, and to top it off, the time
changed to Daylight Savings Time that weekend,” Retson said.
After the contest on Sunday, the winning team was invited to the Japanese
Ambassador’s residence where guests were entertained.
“We gave impromptu speeches at the reception,” Brett said. Both Brett and
Ali spoke in Japanese and Chesarae thanked them in English.
“It was good that one of us spoke in English because not everyone attending
spoke Japanese,” Brett added.