Humans of Harker: For ten points, name this…

Arun Sundaresan (12) establishes a positive outlook on the globe through Quiz Bowl

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Humans of Harker: For ten points, name this…

“One of the biggest things you can take away from Quiz Bowl is learning to [make stuff up]. You have to build a rational answer upon not necessarily rational reason. It involves you trying to make a lot of connections between things that seemingly don’t line up. I think that has changed the way I see things and that really nothing is standalone; pretty much everything correlates with everything else,” Arun Sundaresan (12) said.

“One of the biggest things you can take away from Quiz Bowl is learning to [make stuff up]. You have to build a rational answer upon not necessarily rational reason. It involves you trying to make a lot of connections between things that seemingly don’t line up. I think that has changed the way I see things and that really nothing is standalone; pretty much everything correlates with everything else,” Arun Sundaresan (12) said.

Michael Eng

“One of the biggest things you can take away from Quiz Bowl is learning to [make stuff up]. You have to build a rational answer upon not necessarily rational reason. It involves you trying to make a lot of connections between things that seemingly don’t line up. I think that has changed the way I see things and that really nothing is standalone; pretty much everything correlates with everything else,” Arun Sundaresan (12) said.

Michael Eng

Michael Eng

“One of the biggest things you can take away from Quiz Bowl is learning to [make stuff up]. You have to build a rational answer upon not necessarily rational reason. It involves you trying to make a lot of connections between things that seemingly don’t line up. I think that has changed the way I see things and that really nothing is standalone; pretty much everything correlates with everything else,” Arun Sundaresan (12) said.

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Arun “Runey” Sundaresan (12) sits at a table covered by an ill-fitting black table cloth. He is elevated on a stage in a mostly empty hotel ballroom and leans forward in his chair as his hands loosely grip the buzzer. To his right are the three other members of the Quiz Bowl team, all of whom are also intently listening to the clues in the tossup. Suddenly, as if something clicked, Arun sits up and depresses the button on his buzzer.

“Stockholm,” he says.

The moderator confirms his answer and the team moves onto the bonus question.

Arun has always loved these kinds of academic quiz competitions and has asserted himself to be one of the most respected players in the Northern California circuit. Arun joined the Harker Quiz Bowl team in 7th grade, when it was first established at the middle school, and has remained one of its most dedicated members ever since.  

“To me, Quiz Bowl is a sport in the way that other people might play soccer, football, basketball, etc. But since I was never really good at sports, this was kind of like my form of release,” he said.

Rohan Cherukuri (12), a player for Stratford-Sunnyvale in middle school who first knew Arun as an opponent, recalls that his first memory of him was that of high-stakes, fierce competition.

“We were going into the final question, game on the line, number 20. Whoever answered that question was pretty much guaranteed the game,” Rohan said. “Runey buzzes and gets it right … he was the one who sent us packing.”   

Arun’s interest in such academic competitions stemmed from when he was much younger. In his free time, he would study maps in his bedroom and watch Jeopardy.

“I would spend a lot of my free time staring at maps. I would notice all of these weird oddities in the maps and notice what things were out of date, what things were missing,” he said. “So when South Sudan became independent I was like ‘We need to get a new map, this very out of date now. It’s missing an entire country.’”

Besides “giving [him] a free pass in many of [his] classes,” Arun believes that his six-year Quiz Bowl career has had a profound effect on the way he views the world around him.

“One of the biggest things you can take away from Quiz Bowl is learning to [make stuff up]. You have to build a rational answer upon not necessarily rational reason. It involves you trying to make a lot of connections between things that seemingly don’t line up. I think that has changed the way I see things and that really nothing is standalone; pretty much everything correlates with everything else,” he said.

Arun’s most memorable moment in his Quiz Bowl experience thus far was defeating perennial rival Mission San Jose at the 2019 High School National Championship Tournament to advance further into the playoffs. Going into that game, Arun and his teammates did not expect to win because they lost to Mission San Jose multiple times throughout the season. 

“We never expected to [place] as high as we did.  But we just did it because it was fun and we played our hardest,” he said.

Despite surrounding himself in a very fast-paced and adrenaline-packed game, Arun always makes sure to ground himself and continues to enjoy the competition for competition’s sake.

“There are people who take things way too seriously. That was me before – like slapping myself in the face when I got a question wrong – but frankly doing Quiz Bowl has sort of humbled me in a way, introducing me to a lot of people who are a lot smarter than I am. And that honestly just taught me to keep doing it because it’s fun,” Arun said.

His friends, who describe Arun’s strange ability to strike up a conversation about anything and continue it for occasionally unsettlingly long periods, mirror the same sentiments.

“Besides his wonderful locks of facial hair, what I’ll miss about Runey is his enthusiasm. When I talk to him about anything he’s very enthusiastic; he’s very earnest. It makes you feel in a much more idyllic place when you talk to him,” Rohan said.

In addition to his enthusiastic nature, his friend Nikhil Sharma (12) notes his willingness to put his all into everything he does.

“Everyone else I’ve met at Harker [has had] at least some sort of reservations about having an idea and actually carrying it out. But Runey was always one — whether it be running for student council, trying to get elected Homecoming prince, asking out innumerable girls — willing to act on what he truly wants to do,” Nikhil said.

His computer science teacher Ms. Anu Datar also mirrors the same sentiments as his friends.

“He finds joy in little things and … has a very tongue in cheek sense of humor,” Datar said. “I really enjoy having conversations with him. He has a very unique presence as compared to the rest of the student body.”

Whether it be computer science or Quiz Bowl, Arun has truly sunk all of his effort into his projects. Perhaps Arun’s experiences are best summarized by one line.

“The good of satisfaction comes from when you work hard at work that is worth doing,” Arun said.