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Pinkerton preps for Granite State Challenge

Union Leader Correspondent

December 25. 2012 10:17PM
Pinkerton Academy students, from left, Emily D'Aquila, Jake Hudgins, Colin Dudgeon, Dylan Mahalingam and Ben Foley, with Peter Crowell, co-advisor, prepare for the return of Granite State Challenge. (Courtesy)

DERRY - It's good to be smart, but it's better to be smart and fast when it comes to competing on New Hampshire Public Television's Granite State Challenge.

After a year off the air due to a funding issue, the popular high school quiz show will be back on the air this year with a slightly different format, and the Pinkerton Academy challenge team is ready to put their brains up against the best teams in the state.

Under the show's old format, 32 schools competed each year with the schools rotating years when they would be on the air, according to Peter Crowell, a Pinkerton Academy social studies teacher and faculty advisor along with Pam Griswold.

Rather than alternating schools, teams must now qualify for a field of 16 to make the television cut.

Crowell said the Pinkerton students have been preparing for the competition since last year, even though the show was off the air and flew through the collaborative written test to make the field of 16.

"We started forming the team last year, the kids still wanted to compete," said Crowell. "There is a state quiz bowl league where we got the kids involved. Last year, we had a team of four and only one of the kids was an underclasman and the rest were seniors."

With the return of Granite State Challenge and some fruitful recruiting, this year saw as many as 20 students ready to test their knowledge and compete, according to Crowell.

The hard part for Crowell has been cutting the team down to the six needed for the Granite State Challenge team, although the other students can divide up into additional teams for the quiz bowl season.

Although the Granite State Challenge does resemble the popular television quiz show Jeopardy, there is a greater emphasis on scholastic knowledge with many of the questions focused on math, social studies, science, and English.

"Our task now and on air is to find the four kids who will be on air and the two who will be alternates," said Crowell. "We want to make sure all the subject areas are represented, it's not having everyone know everything."

The students practice at least once a week in preparation for the Jan. 13 taping of the show.

"The kids are very dedicated and involved," said Crowell. Even when Crowell has to leave practice by 3 p.m., he said the students are still itching to stay behind and answer more questions.

And while being smart is definitely a plus for competing in the Granite State Challenge, Crowell said it's just as important for the contestants to be smart and quick.

"A lot of the kids who participate but who are not chosen for Granite State Challenge know a lot of the questions, but are busy making sure they know it in their head while someone else buzzes in," said Crowell.

Senior Emily D'Aquila is one of the team members and said she has always had an interest in Jeopardy and quiz shows.

"My family always watches 'Jeopardy' at dinner," she said. She said the Pinkerton team is solid in all areas, but said being filmed for television could be an additional area of pressure once the team gets into the NHPTV studios.

To help prepare for the bright lights, Crowell said the team will be competing against a faculty team in the Pinkerton television studios soon after the students come back from the holiday break.

The taping begins on Jan. 13 with the show beginning to air in early February, according to Crowell.

"The goal is to be good and quick and right," he said.

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