Unitil is proud to be the lead sponsor of “Granite State Challenge,” the exciting high school quiz show on New Hampshire Public Television. The show brings together New Hampshire’s best and brightest students, challenging their brainpower as they compete in the ultimate academic challenge. The game show requires quick reflexes and factual recall in all major disciplines—math, science, social studies, language arts, and fine arts—along with a mix of questions about current events, entertainment, sports, and regional topics.
We had the opportunity to speak with four members of this year’s champion team from Pinkerton Academy—Benjamin Foley, Rebekah Terry, Sara Tridenti, and Adam DiMio—along with coaches Peter Crowell and Pam Griswold, about their experience preparing for and competing in “Granite State Challenge.”
How does it feel to be a “Granite State Challenge” champion?
Benjamin Foley, Captain (BF): I was worried when we entered the first round. We played the team from Hanover, and they are known for being very good. The pressure was definitely on. Making it through that first round was such a relief. Before that game, I don’t think that we really expected to make it very far in the competition. Our team has had quite a few early defeats in recent years, so winning against such a major competitor early on really gave us some good momentum through the rest of the competition. We definitely had our fair share of challenges throughout the competition, like Bishop Guertin in the championship game. So winning the whole competition was amazing. It definitely feels good.
Rebekah Terry (RT): Before we beat Hanover, I never would have believed you if you told me that we were going to win. The entire competition was so nerve wracking! But it feels great to have come so far.
What did you do to prepare for the show?
Peter Crowell, Coach (PC): We get questions from a couple of different sources. The producers at “Granite State Challenge” sent us old shows, which was great. I think that helped to build up our speed for the competition. The questions they’ve sent us have been perfect. Each practice, the kids all compete against each other—it’s all about who can buzz in first. We’ll have one kid dominate one week, but the next it might be another kid, and a different one the following week—so it’s not just one kid that dominates every single week.
Why did you originally join the quizbowl team at Pinkerton Academy?
Sara Tridenti (ST): Last year, they made an announcement about the team. It caught my attention and sounded like something I might like, so I went with some friends to the meeting. It ended up being something that we all really enjoyed. I’ve found that the more people that do it, the more word that gets out about the group. So we’re really continuing to grow as a club and are attracting lots of new members.
Adam DiMio (AD): Well, my brother was on the team last year. So he told me about it and I decided to give it a try. I ended up on really enjoying it, and I have been coming back ever since then.
PC: One of the things we occasionally do is host a game against faculty. The first time I was involved with “Granite State Challenge” at Pinkerton, I was one of the faculty members playing against the students. When one of the coaches of that team gave up coaching, he asked me if I wanted to do it. Five years later, here I am!
Pam Griswold, Coach (PG): Last year, Peter was looking for another coach because his team had gotten so large. I got an email about the opportunity to coach, and was instantly like, “Yes, please! When do you meet?” I really liked doing stuff like this when I was younger, so I wanted to jump in to help out and to be around smart kids. It’s always fun!
What was most memorable about this year’s competition?
RT: Winning the play-in round at the start of the competition. That was kind of the biggest moment for me. Winning that round got us fully into the competition and onto the show. We didn’t necessarily expect it, but without that game we wouldn’t have gotten to the end.
BF: Winning. I guess you could say that was the best part; there really wasn’t any other feeling that compared. We had to work really hard against Bishop Guertin in the championship, so to come up on top was a great feeling.
PC: At the end, one of my kids—Joe—his hands shot right up into the air in excitement, and for me, it summed up the whole thing. That pure excitement at the very end was my favorite part. Honestly, we really didn’t expect it. I know my kids are bright and that they could do reasonably well, but when our first match-up is Hanover . . . I’ll admit that we were worried. And when we got through them, it was like, “Whoa, now what’s going to happen?” And everything from that point on was basically a bonus. We got to that last game, and I was a nervous wreck. We were playing Bishop Guertin and it was a close match the whole way through. So when Joe shot his hands up right as they won—I’m like, ‘That’s how I feel too, Joe!” So that was fun.
PG: Going from having the play-in round, and not necessarily being accepted into the competition, to winning! Because of how we ranked on the qualifying test that the kids take to start out the competition, we had to play-in against another team to make it into the tapings. So, to be able to go from not being in the competition initially, to winning the whole thing was pretty awesome.
Any words of advice for future competitors and coaches?
RT: Don’t be too serious. I think that despite our nerves on the inside, that this helped us a lot. We still talked and joked around a bit with each other between studying up before the next round, and I think that helped us keep composure.
BF: Don’t be afraid to get stuff wrong. You’ve got to take risks. It’s not fun getting questions wrong on TV, but you can’t let that get to you—you just have to go for it.
PC: Definitely diversity. Get as much different knowledge as you can. I think we have a good group with a wide range of knowledge. We’ve got a couple kids that are very good at social studies, English, art, music, science, and math. Also, speed. The quicker you can get the kids to react, the better. The words I gave to the kids were, “Go for it fast,” and “Get in first.”
PG: We have a lot of fun. This is a group of really bright kids, but they can also have a lot of fun and laugh a lot while we’re practicing. I think that having that laid-back attitude really helped to keep us calm throughout the competition.