Most student competitions don’t start with men dressed in U.S. Revolution-era garb standing next to a DeLorean from the film series “Back to the Future,” but that’s just what happened on Wednesday during the Earl Warren Cup.

After a three-year break, the Earl Warren Cup returned to Bakersfield High School to test 32 seniors’ knowledge about the U.S. Constitution and other government matters. The competition is held every few years in honor of BHS alumnus, former U.S. chief justice and former California governor Earl Warren.

While the event started off on a light note, it didn’t take long for organizer and BHS teacher Jeremy Adams to tell attendees the real reason for the Earl Warren Cup and why it has returned.

“The Earl Warren Cup was founded ... in the belief that the answers to our problems do not require that we abandon faith in our civic institutions,” he said. “Tonight, we bring back the (event) to remind this generation, this community ... that the answers to our problems do not require less America — they require more America, more knowledge of our principles and our values. Inspiration comes in many forms, and what we do and what we say on this night might just inspire enough people to improve some of the days to come.”

For attendee Edgar Pankey, he hoped the event would inspire his daughter, who will be a freshman at BHS next school year.

“I want to expose her to some of the excitement that BHS has to offer,” he said. “I’m trying to get my eighth-grader excited about going to high school and make it a little less scary for her.”

As audience members were getting to their seats on Wednesday, contestants were in the faculty cafeteria having a meal together and enjoying some downtime prior to the start of the event.

One of this year’s contestants was Hanson Von Flue, who wanted to participate in the Earl Warren Cup after getting to see it as a freshman.

“I’m really excited. This has always been a huge deal at BHS, and I’m really happy they’re bringing it back for our year,” he said. “BHS puts a huge emphasis on sports, so it’s nice to see so much energy behind an academics-based competition.”

Von Flue said he’s learned a lot about government in his studies for the competition and has enjoyed being able to quiz his friends on different aspects of history.

“You really develop a love for government and see why everything is the way it is. It makes you look a little bit deeper,” he said. “I think it’s an important thing to stay up to date on and understand.”

Fellow contestant Joseph Caputo said he wasn’t concerned about winning in the competition but more wanted to just enjoy the experience.

“I’m not really concerned with winning. It’s about having a good time,” he said. “I hope everybody walks away from it feeling better than they did going into it.”

Caputo said he took the studying seriously, making sure to keep up on current events as well as going over materials like he would for any government test. He said he would mostly study individually but also got to spend time with his fellow seniors, and it’s that experience that he believes he will remember most.

“It’s all seniors, so we’ve kind of built up to this,” he said. “I’ve gained more camaraderie with these people. We bond over the nervousness, the preparation atmosphere. We’ve grown really close because we’re all going through the same thing. This is definitely something I’m not going to forget.”

Joseph Luiz can be reached at 661-395-7368. Follow him on Twitter: @JLuiz_TBC.

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