Montrose at the Harvard Certamen

The projected image during the opening remarks at the Certamen at Harvard University.

The projected image during the opening remarks at the Certamen at Harvard University.

After coming off a huge win at the Certamen at Boston Latin School, I made the somewhat-crazy decision to test my luck at the Certamen at Harvard University. This time, however, Montrose had a total of three teams attending, one for the novice level, one for the intermediate level, and one for the advanced level. For the novice level, the team consisted of Isabella Niebuhr ‘27 and Ellie Fujawa ‘28, for the intermediate, it was Gabriella Dansereau ‘26 and me, and for the advanced level, it was Eliza Glaeser ‘24 and Madison Li ‘24. The Harvard Certamen is a HUGE deal with a huge amount of schools in attendance, coming from all over the country with some coming from as far as Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Virginia. 

In case you didn’t get the chance to read my previous Certamen article, here’s how Junior Classical League Certamens (Latin for “competition”) work. Junior Classical League, better known as JCL, is similar to a trivia team, pertaining to all things Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece, from translating and grammar to mythology, history, and culture. JCL teams compete against other schools in groups of up to four people in Certamens, and they compete in either the novice, intermediate, or advanced levels. Each team competes in three preliminary rounds, each of which has three teams up against each other. The top three teams in each level move on to the final round and compete for first, second, and third place. Each preliminary round consists of twelve “toss-up questions,” with the final round having twenty. These toss-up questions can be answered by any player on any team. To answer, one must hit their buzzer and answer within the next ten seconds. Each question is worth ten points, and if one answers a question correctly, that team gets two bonus questions which are each worth five points. In the end, whichever team has the most points wins the round. For the preliminary rounds, points are cumulative. However, in the final round, scores are wiped clean, and it all comes down to that one round. There were a few differences to this Certamen, however, since it was much bigger. Each round consisted of twenty toss-up questions, and the top nine teams in each level moved on to one of the three semifinal rounds, then the winners of the semifinals moved on to the finals.

Early in the morning, we all made the drive to Cambridge before walking our way through Harvard Yard to Sever Hall. After an opening speech from Harvard classics professor Naomi Weiss, everyone began to make their way to their first room. After a walk up a steep, narrow staircase, we found our way to our room, where we’d be up against Newton North High School and Harriton High School in Pennsylvania. Overall, the questions were significantly tougher than the Certamen at Boston Latin School, and after a hard effort, we came in second place. We proceeded to place second in our next two rounds, too. Meanwhile, the novice duo placed first in their first round, third in their second round, and second in their third, while the advanced team put up a strong fight in their matchups, placing third in each. 

Afterward, all three of the teams, along with a few of our mothers and Mrs. Demirjian, met up to have lunch together. We ate at the famous Mr. Bartley’s restaurant which is around a quarter of a mile from Harvard Yard. I can now say first-hand that the restaurant definitely lives up to all the hype… but our relaxing, casual lunch got cut short. While we were eating, we found out that Gabriella and I had made the semifinals, and that they were starting right at that moment. Here’s the only problem… we were a quarter of a mile away of congested roads, a long walk through Harvard Yard, and three flights of stairs away from where we had to be with only a few minutes to make it… not to mention, it was also raining. While the rest of the girls and their mothers stayed to pay, and box up our food, Gabriella, her mother, and I went sprinting out of the restaurant, sprinting across the street and through congested sidewalks until we made it to Harvard Yard. Then, we had to sprint through Harvard Yard… only problem… to me, all of the buildings looked the same, so figuring out which one we previously came from was a struggle. After we figured out which one was Sever hall, we sprinted inside, then up multiple flights of steep stairs. Out of breath, we made our way into the room, having just barely made it. Thankfully, our moderator was also late, which was likely the reason that we made it in the first place. 

Quickly, Gabriella and I composed ourselves for the semifinal round, which was against Harriton and Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. Despite being outnumbered once again, Gabriella and I were able to achieve second place in the semifinal round. Despite not making the finals this time around or bringing back another trophy, all three of the Montrose Certamen teams absolutely crushed it in the final Certamen of the school year!

The Montrose intermediate Certamen team, Gabriella Dansereau ‘26 and myself, in the auditorium alongside our fellow competitors, awaiting the opening speech which marks the beginning of a Certamen.


By Kristina Klauzinski ‘24, Rising Sports Editor