Among many Kentucky students, Governor's Cup is the Olympics of academia, an annual competition in which more than 20,000 kids are rewarded not for their physical accomplishments, but their brain power.
In many of the 1,200 Kentucky schools that participate in Governor's Cup, the gleaming trophies from the event are the first thing visitors see when they step inside the front doors, said John Bennett, executive director of the Kentucky Association for Academic Competition.
"We think that's a great thing for the educational culture of Kentucky," he said.
From Saturday through Monday, the Galt House hotel in Louisville will be overtaken by more than 2,500 middle and high school students attending the state finals.
The Galt House is the longtime home of the event, and each year, every one of its sleeping rooms and meeting rooms is booked for it.
"The amount of hours that they put in is amazing," Bennett said of the competitors. "This is their Sweet 16. This is their Final Four."
The event wraps up at 3:30 p.m. Monday with an awards ceremony at which the governor, Steve Beshear, is scheduled to appear.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of Governor's Cup.
Bennett said the competition was first held in 1986, after schools throughout the state began forming academic teams.
At first, he said, "there were only a couple of hundred schools involved," and the event was only for middle and high school students, who compete at the district level and then advance to regional and state competition.
In 1990, Governor's Cup was opened to elementary schools, though there is no state finals in that division.
The competition includes quick recall, in which teams of students answer questions in a quiz bowl format, as well as individual written tests covering mathematics, science, social studies, language arts, and arts and humanities. There also are categories for written compositions and future problem solving, in which teams work together to find creative solutions to world problems.
Bennett said the fact that Kentucky has so many categories makes it unique and adds to the program's appeal among students.
While many states focus only on quiz bowl teams, in Kentucky "you can be a good writer or a good problem solver or a good test taker and be on the academic team," he said. "We have a reach now and a scope that I think is unparalleled."