River students take part in mental match

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 29, 2005

Sitting at a table at the Battle of Brains event at the WAVY News studios in Portsmouth Tuesday, James Hill tried to keep his nerves under control. Though he and the rest of his Nansemond River teammates had been training for the mental marathon since the beginning of school, and though his own mental capacity seemed pretty close to fulfilled (&uot;I’m kind of a nerd when it comes to stuff like this,&uot; admitted the senior Warrior), the team captain knew that no Suffolk squad had ever won a Battle, and that he, Ryan Foster, Michael McManus, Titi Audifferen and alternate Carolyn Tucker could make a small bit of history – and on local television, no less!

The event’s impromptu host, Fox and WAVY news anchor David Nelson, read the first question.

&uot;In 2003, it was Amare Stoudemire,&uot; Nelson read. The NBA star’s mention got Hill’s attention.

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&uot;I was thinking, ‘Phoenix Suns,’ because that’s who (Stoudemire) plays for,&uot; Hill recalled. &uot;Then (Nelson) kept going.&uot;

&uot;In 1970, it was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar,&uot; Nelson continued. &uot;In 1997, it was Allen Iverson. What award is…&uot;

Hill didn’t even let him finish, clicking away on his buzzer.

&uot;NBA Rookie of the Year!&uot; he announced. It was right, and the Warriors were on the board one step ahead of their opponents from Southampton Academy.

The Battle, sponsored by the Virginia Lottery, has been quizzing students from across Virginia for a quarter-century. Over the past few years, it’s expanded to schools in the state’s southeastern area. Last year, teams from Lakeland, Nansemond River, and Nansemond-Suffolk Academy qualified to compete, but none made it past the first round (the Warriors lost to eventual area second-place finisher Hamp-ton Roads Academy). This year, the Warriors were the only ones to get a team to war.

Preparations for the 2005-06 school year began late in the 2004-05 season.

&uot;We went to teachers and asked for recommendations,&uot; said River history teacher Inga Francis. &uot;We wanted kids who were willing to work with us.&uot;

The team was selected, and took a written test in June to try to qualify.

&uot;It was all sorts of things,&uot; Hill said of the test. &uot;There was a question about how many outs there were in a regulation baseball game, followed by a question about trigonometry, followed by a question about what band sang the song, ‘Car Wash.’&uot;

He and his teammates passed the test – Francis said she didn’t know the exact qualification requirements – and prepared for the contest. Over the first weeks of the school year, Francis and government teacher Brian Collins got them ready with scrimmage matches and in-class quizzes (Foster is the only returnee).

&uot;It’s kind of like pounding knowledge into their heads,&uot; Collins said. &uot;We helped them with reaction and buzzer skills. We tried to work out their hesitation, which I think kept them relaxed (during the first match).&uot;

The first round of elimination competition – 32 teams from across the area will participate – began last week, and the Warriors took on South-ampton. The first round was a set of 10 questions on virtually any subject, with answers bringing in 10 points apiece. There was no penalty for wrong answers, unless the contestant interrupted Nelson before it was completed and got it wrong, which would dock five points.

After his first answer, Hill said, &uot;I was pretty relaxed.&uot; His teammates seemed so as well, as three more queries received affirmative retorts, leaving the score at the end of the round at 40-15 (South-ampton received one penalty).

In the second round, the schools had a bit more control, choosing from a set of categories. River picked &uot;Literary Forms of Writing,&uot; and let their secret weapon loose.

&uot;I guess I just read too much,&uot; said Audifferen. &uot;I know a lot about what people write. A lot of the stuff I read references other authors and what they write, so that gets me interested in them.&uot;

Nelson tossed forth questions about different styles of writing, and Audifferen shot back answers like &uot;Myth!&uot; &uot;Limerick!&uot; and &uot;Haiku!&uot; as the Warrior score increased to 100-15.

Southampton got the next two choices, and added 40 points to their score with questions based around musical instruments and international foods. Then River got one more shot, and picked &uot;Acronyms,&uot; in which they were given the abbreviation and asked what for which it stood.

&uot;They said, ‘NASDAQ’ and I was like, ‘Huh?’&uot; Hill said. &uot;They said, ‘UNICEF’ and I was like, ‘Huh?’ But when they said MLS (Major League Soccer) and NAFTA, I got those.&uot;

With River holding a comfortable 110-55 lead, one more random round was held, and the team coasted to a 160-90 victory, becoming the first group of Warriors to move up. They’ll battle Norfolk’s Ocean Lakes High School next week, and Tuesday’s event will be television on WAVY and Fox Oct. 22.

&uot;We did a lot better than we showed in practice,&uot; Mc-Manus said. &uot;We gelled. We’ll give Ocean Lakes a good fight, and maybe win.&uot;