Just before another season of The Chase kicks off on ABC, the network announced that OG Chaser Mark ‘The Beast’ Labbett would not be returning. That wasn’t the game show’s only offseason shakeup, because three new Chasers were selected to join returning Chasers Brad Rutter and James Holzhauer. The newest cast members include Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions winner Buzzy Cohen; game show veteran and quiz legend Brandon Blackwell; and Victoria Groce, who was named World Quizzer of the Year at the 2021 World Quiz Awards.
Before she became The Chase’s new “Queen,” Groce and her formidable brain were on the teams that won two Geek Bowls, and had Top Three finishes in two others. She recently talked to Geeks Who Drink about her quiz-training regimen, how she’s learned…well, everything, and what might cause her daughter to kick her out of the house.
GWD: So what is your background in trivia and quizzing like? Did you grow up participating in quizzes?
Victoria Groce: Yes, I did all kinds of academic competitions when I was a kid, basically everything that my schools offered. I did Academic Bowl, and played on a high school team that had a very serious program then went on to play in college. I drifted away from doing [quizzes] formally shortly after that, but I was on Jeopardy! a couple of years after college and then I really did nothing connected with trivia for a while. My daughter was young, I was working and going back to school, and I didn’t have the time or the bandwidth for it. Then in 2014 or 2015, I got an invitation to LearnedLeague and started getting back into some informal online stuff, which is where I initially met most of my Geek Bowl teammates. So that’s basically my background.
After taking a break from quizzing, was it tough to get back into it?
Yeah, when I started doing LearnedLeague, I was pretty much a B/C Rundler and then at some point I was considering trying to get on a game show, so I was like ‘I’ll learn some of the stuff that I studied when I was going on Jeopardy!’ and I started steadily doing that. As I started getting better in some of the informal stuff, I started doing more of that: it was very much a ‘frog in boiling water’ kind of situation. I did things like the World Quizzing Championships, and did better than I would’ve expected so I thought if I worked some more, I could do really well. So now I do spend quite a bit of time studying and preparing.
Is your study routine pretty well-defined and structured?
Yeah, I used the spaced repetition system. It’s a very organized regimen and I have routines for what I add and what I review. It’s very structured, and it takes a fair bit of time.
It seems to be working, though! You said that you started in this world when you were quite young. When did you realize that you had an aptitude for it?
I came from a family where there was a pretty heavy emphasis on being competitive, and where we were expected to be excellent academically. There was a lot of Trivial Pursuit and geography games and other kinds of educational things at home. I skipped a couple of grades when I was young, and I was used to…kind of beating everybody in things like buzzer quizzes, math competitions, and things like that. When I started high school, I joined the Quiz Bowl team and was immediately good at it – or good enough at it that it made sense for it to be a thing that I focused on, along with music which was the other thing I was doing a lot of at that time.
Did quizzing still feel like something that you were doing for fun?
I would say yes, it was for fun and for social reasons. I went to a school where we were expected to do well, quiz each other, and spend a lot of time at practice. But I think if it hadn’t been a lot of fun, I probably wouldn’t have done it.
So fast-forwarding a little bit, how did you first encounter Geeks Who Drink?
I think the very first [Geeks] thing I ever played was Geek Bowl in Seattle. My teammate Susannah [Brooks] had played the year before that. She knew that you had to put together a pretty crazy team to be competitive, so she and Steve [Bahnaman] reached out to [Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions winner] Colby Burnett and Troy Meyer, and two of the other people who were supposed to be on that team were [Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions winner] Alex Jacob and [Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions semifinalist] Joon Pahk. When Joon had to drop out, they invited me, and when Alex dropped out, they invited [Jeopardy! Tournament of Champions quarterfinalist] Ryan Chaffee. We went to Seattle, and our team was very much bolstered by a round on limericks that were based on recent nonfiction. It was catnip for Susannah and me, and it played very tough in the room. That, on top of everything else, helped put us over the top.
How many Geek Bowls have you participated in?
Yeah, it’s a ridiculous team, and everybody has ways of filling each other’s [knowledge] gaps, which is what you want on a team like this.
When you were putting the team together, did you have discussions about each others’ strengths, or strategize about how you would attack certain topics?
Not really. We kind of knew because we’d played against each other so much. For example, I’ve worked hard to become a decent pop culture player but, when we first put the team together, I would say I was pretty weak on anything pop culture, other than music, books, and food.
Without giving away your methods, how did you work to improve in those areas?
A lot of it came from older questions from other kinds of competitions, some of it came from trying to watch more stuff, and some came from just trying to keep up with it. I started reading a lot of movie criticism, and using that to learn from. I don’t have time to use it much now, but there was definitely a point where I had an RSS reader with at least 15 [websites] that covered all kinds of stuff about movies and TV, so I could at least know what’s on and what people were talking about even though I wasn’t likely to have watched a lot of stuff myself.
So skipping ahead to The Chase, how did you originally get involved with the show?
They reached out to me. They’d gotten some recommendations from people who gave them my name, and they had me audition with some verbal tests, and had me try to replicate game conditions. That’s basically how it came to be.
That had to be validating, for them to contact you.
Honestly, it was stunning to me. I knew that people were putting my name into consideration, but I assumed that they were going to go with somebody who had a public profile, somebody who had done TV, or somebody who people knew. But it was extremely flattering, and extremely validating, because I love this community and love being part of it.
Has your life changed since you became a Chaser?
I have a little bit more study time now, because I’m working part-time at my day job. Last year was a little bit crazy, with the studying, trying to have some kind of exercise routine, working full-time, and trying to be a somewhat present parent.
Is your daughter involved in quizzing as well? No, she has zero interest. She does a lot of baking, she does a lot of calligraphy, and she can tell you basically anything about K-pop girl groups. I think if I ever missed a K-pop question, especially on The Chase, I would get evicted. She would not be happy with me.
Featured image courtesy of: ABC