ORHS Takes on the Granite State Challenge

What New Hampshire inventor and entrepreneur invented the Segway? What author wrote under the the pen name to Ellis Bell to hide her gender? Questions like these are just the tip of the iceberg for teams preparing for the Granite State Challenge.

On Sunday, the 7th of January, the ORHS Granite State Challenge team took their seats in the first round of the competition, which was recorded in front of a live audience at the NHPTV station in Durham, New Hampshire. The last time a team from Oyster River made it to the TV round was five years ago.

Each of the 16 teams that competed in Round 1 of the Granite State Challenge was made up of four contestants and one or two alternates. Representing Oyster River was Gigi Reece (‘18), Owen Hilyard (‘19), Kagan Conrad (‘18), and Jacob Zercher (18’), with alternates Emily Allison (18’), Megan Hutar (‘18), and Lucas Hamilton (‘20). The team was coached by John Monahan, who teaches English at ORHS.

The Granite State Challenge has four rounds of quizzing questions that range from current cultural questions, to history facts, to math problems. The first two rounds are referred to as, “toss up questions,” where any person from either team can answer the question. The third round asks each team 10 questions in a timed period for a category of their choice. The fourth round is similar to the first two rounds, but wrong answers will deduct points from the score.

In order to make it to the filmed competition, Oyster River began prepping in October for Super Sunday.  In November, 46 teams from across the state of New Hampshire competed at Manchester Community College in November in a written test to make it into the top 16 teams of the Granite State Challenge.  

Hamilton said that it can be very challenging to study for something like Granite State Challenge. “We did the practice test as a team with Mr. Monahan, which was helpful for getting an idea of the test. And on the drive to the qualifying round, we all answered trivia questions from Gigi’s flashcard box and a few random trivia things that people found online.”

Monahan added that the group worked with the buzzer a few times, but for the most part, practicing was left to individual team members. The night before the filming of the first round, Conrad shares that the team had a spaghetti dinner where they watched multiple episodes of Jeopardy. “It was a bonding experience. It was enjoyable to get to know the team better in a different setting,” he recalls.

This team’s hard work and bonding certainly worked to the team’s advantage. Oyster River placed 14th out of 16 teams on Super Sunday which paired them off against Exeter in Round 1. Allison explained how she felt during a typical event. “I’m usually a little nervous before and then relieved after. Especially this year because it is the first year in a while that Oyster River has made it to the TV round.”


Granite State Challenge first aired on New Hampshire PBS on January 30th, 1984. The first season was originally hosted by Tom Bergeron, now famous for hosting Dancing with the Stars, and Jim Jeannotte took over in the second season of the show. In the 2018 competition, Jeannotte continued to read the challenging questions like he had for the past 34 years.

Another interesting component of the first round of the Granite State Challenge is the live audience. Arabella Reece, joined her parents in cheering on her younger sister, Gigi. “I didn’t know what to expect and thought that it would be boring, but I actually got really into the competition and it was a lot of fun [to watch],” says Reece. In particular, she was, “impressed by how quickly they were able to answer the questions, especially because of how difficult the questions were.”

Conrad added, “I think it was fun to be on public broadcast television. I think it was just kinda cool to be on a quiz show set because you get to see what is going on behind the scenes.”

Unfortunately, the participants and audience of Granite State Challenge were asked to keep the results confidential until the release date, but you can tune into the local PBS channel on March 24th at 6pm to find out how Oyster River competed. For more information, visit http://www.nhptv.org/gsc/.