UMES Honda Campus All-Star Challenge Team members Kevin Armstrong II, Princaya Sanders, and Calvin Awkward during gameplay against host Bowie State University during the National Qualifying Tournament.

Princaya Sanders was in a situation that would test anyone’s mettle.

The freshman rehabilitation science major at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore was in the midst of competition facing off against students from other Historically Black Colleges and Universities in a battle of knowledge and trivia.

“When you’re in the middle of a game situation it’s nerve-wracking but it’s fun because you’re waiting for the next question,” she said. “But you’re also excited because you’re in a game. It’s fun and exhilarating.”

Sanders was one of eight UMES students who participated in the Honda Campus All-Star Challenge program, which returned after a brief hiatus due to several influences, including COVID-19.

This year’s team, coached by public relations director Earl Holland Jr. and Dr. Kawanda McCarthy-Williams, the Assistant Dean for Experiential Education and an assistant professor in the School of Pharmacy and Health Professions, was comprised of nine students – eight freshmen and one junior.

UMES has participated in the quiz bowl competition involving HBCUs from across the country since the Honda Campus All-Star Challenge’s inception in 1989. Over the years, the university has received more than $130,000 in grants from the Honda Motor Corporation.

Throughout the year, the students participated in twice-weekly practices and a campus tournament open to all undergraduate students, and virtual scrimmages against other HBCUs to prepare for competition in one of six regional qualifying tournaments featuring schools from around the country.

This year, UMES competed in Honda’s National Qualifying Tournament hosted by Bowie State University in late February.

During that tournament, the Hawk quizzers matched wits with HBCU foes in a field of competition including Morgan State University, Howard University, Lincoln University, Cheyney University, Georgia-based Albany State University, Bowie State, and eventual tournament champion, the University of the District of Columbia.

“For these students to fare so well being majority freshmen and without having a template to follow really impressed me,” said Holland, who was a member of the team from 2001 to 2005 and a member of UMES’ national runner-up team in 2004. “Going into the tournament, we tried to keep the environment light while letting them know that with the right focus, they could compete with anyone.”

Members of the UMES Honda Campus All-Star Challenge Team huddle before their match-up with the University of the District of Columbia at the Bowie State NQT, held on Feb. 25.

UMES fielded two squads in the scholastic competition, with the varsity squad comprised of Sanders and fellow freshmen, Kailey Wilson, Kevin Armstrong II, and Calvin Awkward, who was captain.

The junior varsity squad featured freshmen Andrew Boaston, Omarion Lopez, Russell Berry, also a team captain, and junior Quinton Smith. Freshman manager Easla Wescott rounded out the team.

Awkward, a computer science major, said during his experience at the tournament he was surprised by how large of involvement there was in the quiz competition.

“There’s a lot of schools that are a part of it. It’s a lot bigger than I thought it was,” he said.

The varsity team went 1-3 in round-robin competition, wrapping up play with a 250-220 victory against York College of Queens, New York. The junior varsity was competitive despite being unable to secure a win.

Falling short of its goal to clinch a berth in Honda’s National Championship Tournament in Los Angeles next month, Holland and the rest of the team took the disappointment in stride.

“Being a new program, we knew that this year was the year to get our sea legs, so to speak,” he said. “With a year under our belts and with the ability to grow the program, we’re looking to create consistent long-term success.”

For more information on the UMES Honda Campus All-Star Challenge program, go to

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