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Coach Eric Stewart and St. George's eight-person Reach for the Top team brought the national game show trophy back to B.C. after a 13-year drought. Photo by Kristin Bradford.

'Nerds' tops in Canada

By Naoibh O'Connor-Staff writer

"What British composer..."

That's all Adam Goldenberg heard before he slammed his hand down on the buzzer. He was trying to beat his opponents to answer a question about classical music during a preliminary round at this year's Reach for the Top national competition.

"I buzzed in way too early and I was sure I was going to get it wrong," says the Grade 12 St. George's School student. "I said, completely guessing, 'Edward Elgar' and I got it right."

Goldenberg is a veteran enough contestant to know anticipating questions before they've been asked is half the battle in the popular high school student game show.

That sense of anticipation, combined with extensive general knowledge, helped the eight-member St. George's team, captained by Goldenberg, bring Reach for the Top's top prize back to B.C. for the first time in 13 years earlier this month.

It was quite a feat considering competition is stiff, especially from Ontario-the province that fields the most teams.

Eric Stewart, St. George's coach, says speed is of the essence since a millisecond delay in responding can cost points.

Questions are eclectic, including science, the chemical composition of household objects, sports teams, the history of the quiz show itself and the Academy Awards.

"Robertson Davies" was the correct response to the question: "I was described by many as a tall Santa Claus at the middle of my life."

"Accident" was the answer to a fill-in-the-blank question referring to Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit: "Don't go into that garden, your father had a 'blank' there."

The St. George's team took a big lead early, which their Ontario opponents were never able to overcome.

"I just remember playing in the final game when it got to the point where we knew there weren't enough questions for them to come back," says 17-year-old Goldenberg. "It was absolutely surreal and none of us could believe that we'd won for some time and it's still sinking in."

A couple weeks ago, the Globe and Mail noted Conservative leader Stephen Harper played on his Reach for the Top high school team-a reference that didn't escape Goldenberg's attention.

He tore out the article and left it on his mother's desk with a sticky note saying, 'Yes, but did he win nationals?'

Reach for the Top was modelled on a British TV series called Top of the Form. It first appeared on CBC TV in Vancouver in 1961. The first national finals were played in 1965, but it didn't become a national television show until the following year.

In 1984, it became a private show and was syndicated to independent broadcasters.

To Goldenberg, who's Harvard-bound, the quiz show is all about having a good time.

"At a basic element, it's a way for a bunch of nerds to try to show each other up about who knows the most," he says. "I know there are Reach for the Top players all over the place who'll resent me for saying that, but the fact is I have no problem admitting Reach for the Top is a nerdy game, played by nerdy people-but it's a lot of fun."

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