OJCL Torch Spring Torch 2019 | Page 13

Why Certamen Matters Secretary Alan Zhang, Walnut Hills Certamen has always been my favorite part of the JCL. It’s exhilarating, racing to translate a sentence from a dead language, recalling a 2500-year-old battle, or reciting even older mythological stories. To anyone else, the idea might seem ridiculous: what’s the appeal in memorizing classical trivia? I don’t know if everyone else has figured it out by now, but I really haven’t. When I joined the JCL in the 8th grade, I attended every Certamen that I could. I certainly wasn’t any good at it—I’m not sure if I got a single toss-up. Actually, it was very disheartening: every lost round, every missed final, every question that “I totally should’ve gotten right” just affirmed my burning mediocrity. Yet I continued to try—I’m not sure why—and my year culminated in a 2nd place finish at State Convention. I was surprised, to say the least, but I felt accomplished, and, for the first time in so long, confident. That feeling lasted for 5 minutes, until I watched Peter Hattemer destroy intermediate finals, leaving no time for anyone else to buzz a single time. I signed up for nationals in Indiana on a whim. I decided that I would tryout for the Certamen team, too (why not, right?). I was told that I should sign up for castra, a Latin study program over the summer, so I did. I did not know anyone there, and my shyness delayed my acquaintance with them for several days. Instead, I sat in a corner and read through a study guide, alone. Sometimes, I looked up and watched the big kids play rounds: they answered incomprehensible questions as though it were second-nature. I was amazed, wondering whether I could be that good one day. Eventually, I got to know my fellow castra attendees. Joseph Delamerced taught me the passive periphrastic; Tullus Dean outlined all of Roman history to me; Caroline Klette lent me her copy of Edith Hamilton’s Mythology. Slowly but surely, I became a part of the group. As my knowledge about Certamen increased, so did my Alan celebrating many victories he ability to be myself. 13 acheived at Convention, including 1st place in the Advanced Certamen finals