2) What famous person is on the Alabama license plate?
3) What's the outer layer of tissue called in a tree?
The answers are at the end of this story, but if you don't know them, keep in mind that your neighbor's son or daughter just might.
That's because those questions were some of what the McNair Academic High School quiz bowl team recently faced in the "New Jersey Challenge," a quiz show currently airing on News 12.
McNair Academic's team was one of 30 from across the state that faced difficult questions in areas such as global events, local history, popular culture, art, literature, math, and science in a head-to-head competition with another quiz bowl team.
The high school, which is located in downtown Jersey City, requires an entrance test and lures top students from all over the city to its classrooms. It has received numerous accolades over the years for its high standards of educational excellence.
It recently added a feather to its thinking cap when the team made it to the finals, facing East Brunswick High School.
French and English teacher Dr. Sara Solberg is the team's advisor. Members are Lvynn (pronounced EL-WIN) Pasen; Avinash Chandan; team captain Aleksandr Arkhipov; Ahsan Hameed, and team alternate Jamie Niskanen-Singer. Last week, the five members of the team and Solberg spoke about the grueling work and competition they dealt with to reach the finals.
How did they do?
The only way to know is to watch News 12 New Jersey (Channel 62 in Jersey City) at 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 17, 2006, with an encore airing on Sunday, June 18, at 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.As seen on TV
But whatever the result, they earned the appreciation of their principal Dr. Robert Roggenstein.
"We're very proud of their effort, and it's a tribute to their hard work and the dedication that Dr. Solberg has given to them," said Roggenstein.
The New Jersey champion winner will face the winner of The Long Island Challenge in the first ever Challenge Championship. Ultimately they will compete for $20,000 in total prizes.
The runner-up school from New Jersey will receive a $2,500 grant from New Jersey Challenge sponsor PSE&G, to give to a charity of their choice.
The final Challenge Championship will air on News 12 on June 24, 2006. Beyond Hudson County
One would have the impression that it's no big deal for Academic High School quiz bowl team to reach the finals of a major academic competition. They are already the two-time winners of the Hudson County Scholastic Bowl.
But that's not the case for the team, which was one of five schools in Hudson County who competed (Bayonne, Kearny, St. Peter's Preparatory and Union Hill).
According to Solberg, the team was selected in a lottery among hundreds of schools across the state.
The 30-minute show, produced for Cablevision by Artistree Productions, was taped last October and November in Oakland, N.J. The show was divided into rounds that include multiple-choice questions and a lightning round, where teams try to answer 10 questions in 60 seconds.
In the final round, teams can answer questions freely, but risk losing 10 points for any incorrect answers.
That's a lot of pressure, whether you're a high school student or standing next to Alex Trebek.
Sophomore student Pasen, who admitted to being a devoted Jeopardy! fan (Monday through Friday, even reruns on Saturday), agreed about that, remembering the first taping of the New Jersey Challenge when McNair competed against Hackensack High School.
"I was so nervous that I froze; I looked so serious," said Paren laughing.
Pasen gave way to senior Jamie Niskanen-Singer, who would compete in the other matches against Kearny, Indian Hills, Torah Academy, and East Brunswick. For Singer, it was an opportunity to quench his competitive spirit.
"I am a really competitive person in general...I really enjoy competition and I saw this as an opportunity to compete and represent my school," said Niskanen-Singer.
The other three older members of the team - Arkhipov, Chandan, and Hameed - were also unfazed.
"I really enjoy the thrill of the competition, and also kind of a way to put all that random stuff we know to use," said Chandan.
They studied questions downloaded from the Internet, and tapes of the teams they opposed.
Solberg also said what helped the team in competition are the members' respective knowledge specialties - Arhkipov and Hameed with mathematics, Chandan with history and Pasen and Singer with pop culture and other subjects.
"What really impresses is their deep knowledge of a number of subjects," said Solberg 'That's something you really can't teach."
Looking back on the experience, they all agreed that that it was beneficial. Even a pep rally
The McNair Academic quiz team members said that reaching the finals helped get more attention from their fellow students and family members.
"I was glad people knew what we were doing, and many of them came on the trips and were cheering us on in one room while we were taping in another room," said Arkhipov.
What also helped was a pep rally organized by News 12 on the Academic High School campus for the team. It was where much of the student body viewed the team's match against Indian Hills, the closest and considered the most competitive of the matches before ending up in the finals.
In fact, gracing a wall on the third floor hallway of the school is several pictures from the rally with the headline, "McNerds have more fun."
The team members also hope the success of making it to the finals will attract more members - especially females. Solberg further elaborated on the dearth of young ladies on the team.
"I think it has to do with the killer competitive instinct. There are a lot of smart girls in this school, tons of them," said Solberg. "But they may lack confidence about knowing things. It's different to know [an answer] 'sort of,' but for scholastic bowl, you have to know exactly."
But Solberg pointed out that she's sees a number female students taking part in academic decathlons that McNair participates in the state, which consists of tests and oral presentations rather than the "hit the buzzer" action of the New Jersey Challenge.
Solberg was happy with the results so far and commended the team she coached this year.
"I never have to persuade them to come. They come because they like to come. I don't have to go and find them," said Solberg. "If that was the case, I wouldn't be doing this." The answers to the questions posed at the beginning of the article are: 1) Whitehorse 2) Helen Keller and 3) Cambian layer. Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org