A team from Merrimack High School is celebrating the school’s third championship title in just four years after defeating Plymouth Regional High School on the popular Unitil-sponsored academic quiz show “Granite State Challenge.”
The big win came during the highly anticipated championship game, which aired May 11 on New Hampshire PBS. The final score was Merrimack 470, Plymouth 360.
Unitil is a lead sponsor of the show, which is now in its 41st season and features teams of students from high schools across New Hampshire.
“We would like to congratulate the third-time champions on their impressive winning streak. They worked well as a team and really exemplified the spirit of the game,” said Unitil Manager of External Affairs Alec O’Meara, who presented the championship trophy. “Both teams should be commended for their performances. We’re excited to be a part of this unique opportunity that showcases some of our top students’ academic achievements.”
“Granite State Challenge” is a game show that brings together New Hampshire’s best and brightest students who must demonstrate quick reflexes and factual recall in all major disciplines - math, science, social studies, language arts, and fine arts. The students also face questions about current events, entertainment, sports, and New Hampshire-specific topics.
Students on the Merrimack team were senior and team captain Jack Pikora and seniors Rainier Murray, Aris Corman-O’Reilly, and Alli Pikora. The team alternates were juniors Kishan Sreenivasan, Trey Grant, and Liam Clark.
Playing for Plymouth were captain and senior Dash Ough, junior Khalil Dakhlia, and seniors Natalie Boyer and Trevor Tobine. Senior Jason Vuong and sophomore Reagan Sutherland were team alternates.
“The championship game pitted two powerhouse teams against each other. It was exciting to see Merrimack take home their third championship title in the past four years. The kids and the coaches should all be proud of their efforts and we look forward to seeing both teams back again next season,” said Susan Adams, the education manager at New Hampshire PBS and co-producer of “Granite State Challenge.”
Merrimack made it to the championship game in 2022 but was defeated by the Portsmouth High Clippers. They were determined to clinch the championship title this year.
Merrimack coaches Sally Agel and Sara Campbell commended the players on their performance throughout the season.
“I’ve had a really special group of kids,” Campbell said. “They were actually freshmen the first time we won. They watched it all and got really excited about the program and they’ve worked so hard the last four years to make sure they were just as good as that team they watched when they were freshmen.”
The season starts in October when she hands out a test to see what they know and then picks the team, which begins practicing in November and takes a qualifying test.
“They’re in my room every day after school,” Campbell said. “These are kids who value education and learning. This is such a great opportunity for them to show that off and to show how much they value learning. The fact that these kids get a chance to be celebrated is so wonderful.”
Jack Pikora described the game and the school’s championship win as the culmination of his high school experience. “I’ve been waiting for this for a long time. Merrimack has done very well. It’s been an amazing experience and we’ve made a lot of great friends,” he said.
His twin sister, Alli Pikora, also joined the team after being encouraged by her brother. She had an interest during middle school, but after the Merrimack team won during her freshman year she began attending practices and hanging out with the players. She said the most challenging aspect is finding the confidence to take a chance. “You have to take a lot of chances. Sometimes you know it and sometimes you just have to guess and your guess could be wrong,” she said.
Rainier Murray said the hardest part is the waiting, adding, “You don’t know what’s going to happen and there’s nothing you can do about it, but I’m very excited. I was not expecting to win. It was that close.”
Aris Corman-O’Reilly was also excited to take home the first-place trophy this year.
“I was really, really hoping we would win and I was really nervous. I psyched myself out a little bit before the semi-finals so that was psychologically a bit of a rough game for me. We obviously still did great. I kind of went into it like what happens happens and I wanted to have fun. I was so thrilled. It was a great game and I couldn’t have asked for a better end to my Granite State Challenge career,” Aris said.
Front Image: Unitil Manager of External Affairs Alec O'Meara presents the "Granite State Challenge" championship trophy to Merrimack High School coaches Sally Agel and Sara Campbell. (photo credit: Mark Bolton Photography)
Top Image: Players from Merrimack High School's team celebrate after winning the championship game on "Granite State Challenge." (photo credit: Mark Bolton Photography)