Students in a rainbow of Catholic school uniforms swarmed the Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church gym on Saturday along with parents, coaches and supporters at the Diocesan Quiz Bowl.

Thirty-six teams, a total of 216 students representing 18 different parochial schools in the Baton Rouge metro area, gathered to test their knowledge of math, science, religion, English/language arts and enrichment — a category that could include everything from art to sports, said Cheri Gioe, assistant principal of St. George Catholic, who was part of the committee that came up with questions for quiz bowl participants.

Each team was grouped in a pool with three to four other teams, Gioe said, for the first round of play.

Teams answered a series of questions on a variety of subjects for one point each, and the team with the most points at the end of each session won the round. Teams advanced to the semifinals by winning their pool, and those winners advanced to finals.

The competition can be intense, said Anna Haldane, a religion teacher and moderator — equivalent to a team coach — for the OLOM team.

“The question is read, and the rules are very strict. It can only be read one time, so you have to listen very carefully,” she said. Students have a limited amount of time to answer the question, or it passes to the next team, she said. “I was probably as nervous as they were.”

That holds true for the question readers, time keepers and other volunteers who work to put the bowl together, said Gay Hebert, assistant principal at St. Aloysius Catholic School, who organized the bowl from the start, almost two decades ago, before stopping this year.

“I can tell you a lot of the callers (question readers) are petrified. If you stumble over a word, you might rattle a student, and everybody wants to get it right,” she said.

But, Gioe said, it’s a perfect place to celebrate all they’ve learned over the first semester and to see how far they’ve come.

“It is quite a job to coordinate all of this,” Gioe said. “Claire Willis (assistant principal at Our Lady of Mercy) gets a lot of the credit for that.”

Ultimately, they want to put together an enjoyable event that gives parochial school students a chance to meet each other on an academic level, she said.

By the time the final round was done, St. Jude’s fifth- and sixth-grade team took first place overall, and St. Thomas More’s seventh- and eighth-grade team won that age group.

For the first time in years, Hebert had nothing to do but relax and cheer her team on.

St. Aloysius was represented by both fifth- and sixth-grade and seventh- and eighth-grade teams.

“I’m having a ball,” Hebert said, “but I know what they’re going through,” she said of the administrators walking around with clipboards and nervous students waiting for their turn to compete.