Victor Hollenberg is a language, geography, history and politics whiz. Naveen Murali is a math expert. Petey Menz takes care of culture and literature. Gabe Block and Rachel Myers nail the sciences.
Individually, they’re 5 of Staples’ brightest students. Collectively, they make up the school’s Challenge team.
Inspirationally, you’ll love watching them compete on Cablevision’s “The Challenge.” They’ll take on Connecticut teams 1st, then attempt to move on to the tri-state championship in the spring.
The winners earn $10,000 for their school. Victorious team members get $500 each.
The opening round airs Tuesday, Jan. 19, at 6:30 p.m. on MSG Varsity (Cablevision Channel 14). The Challenge repeats on News 12 Connecticut Saturday and Sunday evenings, at 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. The 1st foe is Greenwich. Confidentiality prohibits us from reporting how badly Staples kicks Greenwich’s butt who wins.
Staples' Challenge team: Rear (from left): Petey Menz, Naveen Murali, Victor Hollenberg, Gabe Block. Front: Rachel Myers.
“Like any good team — in sports or academics — they collaborate well in the few seconds they have,” says Jim Goodrich. He and Julia McNamee co-advise the Challenge team.
“These kids have such knowledge,” he marvels. “This is a way for them to showcase what they know, for an objective other than grades.”
Goodrich adds: “They’re not just bright kids who have acquired an incredible number of facts. They’re also wired to hear a question, and instantaneously have the answer.”
The co-advisor enjoys his role. “I get to spend time with smart kids. They’re very normal, and a lot of fun — but they can talk about an enormous range of things. It’s stimulating for them to be with each other, and for me to hear them talk.”
“The Challenge” is like “Jeopardy” and “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” meets “GE College Bowl.” Questions include math factoring, physics and authors; categories can be as whimsical as “California” and “People in Uniform.”
“I love trivia,” Petey — the culture/language guy — says. “This feels just like a sports team. It’s more competitive than my other school activities (Inklings newspaper and Junior State). We practice a lot, and we really want to win.”
Training sessions include answering questions provided by Goodrich and McNamee; watching tapes of past episodes; even honing skills like conferring and buzzing in.
“Last year we got locked out a lot, because we buzzed in too early,” Petey explains.
Petey enjoyed the recent competition, taped at Cablevision’s New York studio. He was not fazed that Greenwich had more fans. “Mr. Dodig (Staples’ principal) doesn’t want to take kids out of class to watch other kids answer questions,” Petey notes. “So we didn’t have the Superfans, like at sports events.”
Petey’s grandparents were there, however, cheering him on.
“It’s a lot of fun,” the junior says. “It can be stressful, but you don’t feel bad if you get an answer wrong. There’s always another one coming at you.”