Merrimack Defeats Plymouth

Granite State Challenge Championship

(DURHAM, May 15, 2023) - Merrimack High defeated Plymouth Regional High in the Granite State Challenge championship game. This was not the first time the two teams met in the championship game, they went head-to-head in 2020. Merrimack took the trophy home that year. 

Playing for Merrimack High was senior and team captain Jack Pikora. He was joined by seniors Rainier Murray, Aris Corman-O’Reilly, and Alli Pikora. The team alternates were juniors Kishan Sreenivasan, Trey Grant, and Liam Clark. Merrimack was coached by Sara Campbell and Sally Agel. Merrimack enrolls around 1,119 students. Merrimack High defeated John Stark, Souhegan High, and Hopkinton High on their way to the finals.

Captain and senior Dash Ough, junior Khalil Dakhlia, senior Natalie Boyer, and senior Trevor Tobine represented Plymouth Regional High. The team alternates were senior Jason Vuong and sophomore Reagan Sutherland. The team was coached by Jay Fogarty and Troy Harris. Plymouth Regional High enrolls around 647 students from Plymouth, Ashland, Holderness, Campton, Rumney, Wentworth, Warren, Ellsworth, Waterville Valley, and Thornton.  Plymouth Regional High defeated Salem High, Bow High, and Trinity High to make it to the final game.


The game kicked off with a question about something that could be a dance or a type of dot polka), and Khalil Dakhlia picked up the first points of the game for Plymouth.  Rainier Murray picked up the next 10 points for Merrimack with a question about the Greek god Helios. Khalil picked up 10 points for Plymouth on a question about almonds, Alli Pikora added 10 points to the board for Merrimack and her twin brother Jack Pikora added 10 more on a question about Cassius Clay, and the score was 30-20 with Merrimack in the lead.

Natalie Boyer of Plymouth tied the game 30-30 on a question about the sitcom Seinfeld. Khalil proved his sports prowess on the next two questions and Plymouth led by a score of 50-30. Merrimack's Rainier Murray narrowed the score to 50-40 by identifying a burrowing owl, and Trevor Tobine demonstrated that his teammate Khalil wasn't the only member of the Plymouth team will sports expertise on a question about Wilt Chamberlin, extending Plymouth's lead to 60-40.

Khalil and Trevor added 20 points to Plymouth's total on questions about Bugs Bunny and Mahatma Gandhi, and Merrimack's Aris and Alli picked up 20 points for their team with questions about the location of the first Winter Olympics and the novel Pride and Prejudice and Plymouth now led by a score of 80-60.

The next question, the Unitil Power Question worth double points, was asked live by Alec O'Meara of Unitil. Ranier of Merrimck quickly tied the game 80-80, knowing that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were created in 1984 by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird in Dover, New Hampshire. There was now just 30 second left in the first round, Khalil calculated the area of a circle with a radius of 1 inch to the nearest 100th (3.14) on the next question, and to her surprise, Merrimack's Aris identified John Irving as the author of the novel Setting Free the Bears. The round ended in a 90-90 tie.

The second round of the game is the Three Strikes and You're Out Round. Each team picks a 10-question category, and each team member gets a question, starting with the captain. The team continues to answer questions until they miss three questions. Each team also has three passes in each round. If a team answers all 10 questions correctly, they pick up an additional 10 points.

In Merrimack's round, Jack Pikora picked up 30 points, Aris Corman-O’Reilly picked up 20, and Rainier Murray and Alli Pikora each added 10 points, for a team total of 70 points.

In Plymouth's round, Natalie Boyer picked up 30 points, Dash Ough and Trevor Tobine each added 20 points, and, Khalil Dakhlia tacked on 10 points for a total of 80 points, and at the end of the round Plymouth had a 170-160 lead.

In the third round, alternates join their teams. Each team picks a 10-question category and has 60 seconds to answer the questions. If they answer all ten correctly, teams get up a 10-point bonus. Team members can confer in the round, but the captain answers for the team.

Merrimack chose the category "One Name" in which all of the answers were musicians known by a single name. The team cleared the board, getting all 10 correct and picking up an extra 10 points, bringing the score to 270-170.

Plymouth picked the category "Tip of the Hat" in which all of the answers were related to hats. The team picked up 90 points in the round, missing only on a question about the pork pie hat, and the round ended with Merrimack in the lead by a score of 270-260.

In the game's final round, each correct answer is worth 20 points, but teams lose 20 points with an incorrect answer, and leads can quickly be lost or gained.

The round opened with an image of the painting, "View of Toledo," by Greek artist Domenikos Theotokópoulos whom Rainier from Merrimack quickly identified as the artist better known as El Greco. The next question asked players to identify either one of the two letters not found in abbreviations on the periodic table. Merrimack lost 20 points on the question by guessing the letter Z, but Khalil of Plymouth picked up the points by identifying one of the letters as Q. The other letter is J. The score was now 280-270 in Plymouth's favor.

Dash added 20 more points to Plymouth's total on a question about the novel Of Mice and Men. Plymouth then lost 20 points on a question about caterpillars, the points were picked up by Ranier of Merrimack, and the score was now 290-280 with Merrimack holding a slim 10-point lead.

Aris added another 60 points to Merrimack's total on questions about Paul McCartney, author and marine biologist Rachel Carson, and the one planet not included in Gustav Holst's orchestral suite The Planets and the score was now 350-280 in Merrimack's favor.

Plymouth lost 20 points on a question about what 35P/Herschel–Rigollet was (a comet), but picked the points back up on a question about the Alfred Tennyson poem, "Charge of the Light Brigade." The next question, a video question from New Hampshire author, Rebecca Rule about the town in Sullivan Country that J.D. Salinger called home was answered correctly by Khalil of Plymouth, narrowing the score to 350-300. Jack of Merrimack got the next question about the band Black Sabbath correct, and his teammate Aris added another 20 points to the score on a question about Coco Chanel, taking Merrimack out to a 390-300 lead.

Plymouth's Khalil added 20 points to the score on a question about Amelia Earhart and his teammate Trevor picked up 40 points on questions about Nellie Bly and two films by David O. Selznick, Gone With the Wind and The Wizard of Oz, narrowing the score to 390-360.

Alli of Merrimack extended the lead for her team on a question about the Boston Celtic's parquet floor, and with just under a minute left in the game, Merrimack led by a score of 410-360.

Merrimack's Ranier, Aris, and Jack all correctly answered questions in the last minute of the game, picking up 60 points for their team, and the game ended with Merrimack winning by a score of 470-360.

Hosted by Bow High School teacher and former Granite State Challenge coach (Bedford High), contestant (Belmont High), and Granite State Challenge crew member, Jon Cannon, Granite State Challenge features New Hampshire's top high school academic quiz teams as they demonstrate remarkable teamwork, quick thinking, and smarts to beat the clock and buzz in first on this iconic New Hampshire game show. The game emphasizes quick recall of math, science, social studies, language arts, and fine arts facts - along with questions about current events, entertainment, sports, and New Hampshire.

You can follow your favorite team, test your own knowledge with GRANITE STATE CHALLENGE online quizzes, and more at the GRANITE STATE CHALLENGE web page or try your hands at daily brainteasers on the GRANITE STATE CHALLENGE Facebook page.

GRANITE STATE CHALLENGE is funded by lead sponsor Unitil; with additional funding from NEA New Hampshire, Safety Insurance, The New Hampshire Lottery, D.F. Richard Energy, Cognia, and HRCU.

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