Are you smarter than a New Hampshire high school student? The answer is most likely a resounding “no!” if you compare yourself to any of the brilliant students that competed on the 29th season of “Granite State Challenge” on New Hampshire Public Television.
Unitil is proud to be the lead sponsor of “Granite State Challenge,” a beloved quiz show that brings New Hampshire’s top high school academic teams head-to-head in a battle of brainy bragging rights. The game emphasizes quick recall of factual material 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 recently chatted with four members of this year’s champion team from Plymouth High School – Kate Brownstein, Aaron Sheinman, Jordan Brownstein and Steve Cole – along with their coach, Jay Fogarty, about their experience on the show and how they prepared for the challenge of competing on TV.
How did it feel to win Granite State Challenge?
Kate Brownstein (KB): It was awesome and honestly a little unreal when it actually happened!
Jordan Brownstein (JB): In the final episode, we were ahead in points and I remember watching the timer go down at the end of the show and slowly realizing what was happening. We were optimistic going into the competition, but we certainly didn’t expect to win the championship so it was really incredible.
Aaron Scheinman (AS): Our school was excited to play the final match against Hanover High School, because they are such a strong team. That made it pretty special to win against them in the final game.
How did you prepare for the competition?
Steve Cole (SB): Our team practiced together every week and we each picked a few topic areas to focus on. I picked history and modern dictators, because those are two subjects that I’m really interested in and was happy to focus on.
KB: My twin brother (Jordan Brownstein) and I would find old questions and quiz each other at home. Our dad got really into it too! He had a lot of fun helping us prepare by quizzing us.
JB: We watched lots of old episodes online and practiced buzzing-in to answer the questions by hitting the spacebar on our computer keyboard. It was helpful to hear how host Jim Jeannotte phrased questions on past shows – anticipation is a key skill in this competition.
Why did you decide to join the team?
AS: I’m competitive, but I’m not involved in sports, so when I heard my teacher make an announcement about a competition that was focused on academics I was interested immediately.
SB: I’m a big history buff, so this seemed like the perfect activity for me. Plus, I already had a few friends who were involved and they encouraged me to join.
How did you feel when you heard the show would be returning this year?
Jay Fogarty, Team Coach (JF): I was absolutely thrilled because I had been training this team of incredible students since they were sophomores and then the show went off the air. I was so disappointed when I found out that GSC lost funding and was going on hiatus. It was a letdown to think that they would not get the experience of competing in this special arena. Imagine my surprise this year when it was brought back and the students were seniors!
What was your favorite part about coaching this team?
JF: Teaching, at its best, is working with talented students who are motivated and really interested in the task at hand. That defines this experience for me. It was truly amazing for me to see what these students were capable of.
Do you have a favorite moment from the season?
JF: Each show was like a pressure cooker, so I was relieved after each taping, so I could breathe again!
Any words of advice for future coaches, or students?
JF: My success was due entirely to the team that we had, so I cannot give too many sage words of wisdom on how to create a “winning team”. However, my advice to future coaches or students would be to do your best to be a part of this program because it is the most pure form of academic fun and win or lose, it is an incredible experience to be a part of.
AS: Don’t underestimate the power of practice! You can never be too prepared. And don’t lost momentum during breaks in the TV taping. Keep your energy up!
KB: Watch as many old episodes online as you can – they really, really help. And have fun!