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Che Guerra, Quin Repetto, Caleb Low and Parker Smith compete in New England Public Media's 'As Schools Match Wits.'
Updated June 22, 2024 07:58PM

Update: Mount Greylock Wins ‘As Schools Match Wits' Title

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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Update: Mount Greylock won the championship with a 310-155 win over Longmeadow. 
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — If New England Public Media's "As Schools Match Wits" had questions about the meaning of perseverance or continuity, the Mount Greylock Mounties might ace those, too.
Mount Greylock this spring advanced to the championship match of the quiz show's 63rd season, which will be telecast on Saturday at 7 p.m.
And the Mounties did it with a team of four seniors that includes two three-year ASMW veterans and another competing in his second straight season.
One of the three-year veterans, Caleb Low, agreed that the team's collective experience paid off this year.
"I think it was a little bit different sophomore year (2022) because of the pandemic restrictions, but it's pretty much the same format," Low said this week. "I think getting that practice in tense situations, in close games and not close games as well — because we've been in those on both ends — has been helpful.
"I think all of us going back and watching old games from us and other schools as well to figure out the format, figure out what strategies work and what strategies don't work as much was a help."
The team is coached by Blair Dils, a longtime English teacher at the middle-high school who also is Low's coach on the varsity boys soccer team.
Low was joined this season by teammates Quin Repetto, Parker Smith and Che Guerra.
Repetto, who, like Low, has been on the team since sophomore year, said it felt good to make it to title match against Longmeadow after three years of trying.
"It's been really satisfying," Repetto said. "Getting to do this and move on to the later rounds was a good experience.
"I think it does definitely help to have more experience. I felt more comfortable, more confident because I knew what to expect. This time, there wasn't as much of an element of, ‘This is a new thing happening. What are the rules?' I think the prior knowledge of knowing all that helped."
In addition to watching past episodes of the show, the team also takes practice questions from Dils, but it's not the same as being in the arena, Repetto said.
"It definitely feels a lot different [in the studio]," they said. "It's not an environment you can recreate."
The Mount Greylock team had a good mix of students with complementary skill sets, Low said.
"I think it was a really fun group because we had people with different strengths for sure," he said. "Quin and Che are both very strong with literature, which is one of the categories in the ‘capitalization round.'
"Definitely they were strong in math, too, and there are a lot of questions with math and science. … Parker is very strong with geography. So am I — geography, world history. I think we balanced out nicely. I hesitate to say we got lucky, but there were a lot of rounds that were pretty good for the strengths and expertise we had as a group."
And the team had some fun with the competition, both among their teammates and across the studio with their opponents.
"I believe in the semi-final round, the other team, actually the host, Beth Ward, hadn't finished the question, and it was an analogy of fears: 'Arachnophobia is to spiders as … ' " Low said. "She didn't say the next thing, and the other team buzzed in and said ‘Heights,' which was the right answer. That was pretty funny."
And the tournament could be a reminder of how much high schoolers from around the region have in common.
"You do see people you know in different episodes," Low said. "I saw people I played soccer against for sure but also different musical activities like the Senior District Orchestra. Also in the Boys State program, there was a trivia team, and I was on it with a person from the Westfield [ASMW] team. It was fun to see the familiar faces all around."
This season's run of "As Schools Match Wits," which premiered in 1961, included teams from Lee, Lenox and Wahconah Regional in addition to Mount Greylock.
The Mounties beat East Granby, Conn., in the opening round, earning enough points to advance to the quarter-finals as the top seed, where they beat another Nutmeg State squad, Hall High School out of West Hartford, Conn.
In the semi-finals, Mount Greylock beat Westfield High and Longmeadow beat Pioneer Valley Christian to set up the title match that airs on Saturday evening.
Low said the team plans to get together for a watch party on Saturday evening, even though they won't have any suspense.
"The taping [of the tournament], I think was in March and April," Repetto said. "At the time, we couldn't really make an announcement [about the results], but they told us we could tell friends and family. The school just couldn't make announcements over the PA."
Past episodes of Season 63 of "As Schools Match Wits" by New England Public Media are available here.

Tags: academics,   contest,   quiz show,   

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Guest Column: Full Steam Ahead: Bringing Back the Northern Tier Passenger Railroad

by Thomas HuckansGuest Column

You only need a glance outside to see a problem all too familiar to Berkshire county: closing businesses, a shrinking population, and a stunning lack of regional investment.

But 70 years ago, this wasn't an issue. On the North Adams-Boston passenger rail line before the '60s, Berkshires residents could easily go to Boston and back in a day, and the region benefited from economic influx. But as cars supplanted trains, the Northern Tier was terminated, and now only freight trains regularly use the line.

We now have a wonderful opportunity to bring back passenger rail: Bill S.2054, sponsored by state Sen. Jo Comerford (D-Hampshire, Franklin, and Worcester), was passed to study the potential for restoring rail from Boston to North Adams. In the final phase of MassDOT's study, the project is acquiring increased support and momentum. The rail's value cannot be understated: it would serve the Berkshire region, the state, and the environment by reducing traffic congestion, fostering economic growth, and cutting carbon emissions. The best part? All of us can take action to push the project forward.

Importantly, the Northern Tier would combat the inequity in infrastructure investment between eastern and western Massachusetts. For decades, the state has poured money into Boston-area projects. Perhaps the most infamous example is the Big Dig, a car infrastructure investment subject to endless delays, problems, and scandals, sucking up $24.3 billion. Considering the economic stagnation in Western Massachusetts, the disparity couldn't come at a worse time: Berkshire County was the only county in Massachusetts to report an overall population loss in the latest census.

The Northern Tier could rectify that imbalance. During the construction phase alone, 4,000 jobs and $2.3 billion of economic output would be created. After that, the existence of passenger rail would encourage Bostonians to live farther outside the city. Overall, this could lead to a population increase and greater investment in communities nearby stops. In addition to reducing carbon emissions, adding rail travel options could help reduce traffic congestion and noise pollution along Route 2 and the MassPike.

The most viable plan would take under three hours from North Adams to Shelburne Falls, Greenfield, Athol, Gardner, Fitchburg, Porter, and North Station, and would cost just under $1.6 billion.

A common critique of the Northern Tier Rail Restoration is its price tag. However, the project would take advantage of the expansion of federal and state funds, namely through $80 billion the Department of Transportation has to allocate to transportation projects. Moreover, compared to similar rail projects (like the $4 billion planned southern Massachusetts East-West line), the Northern Tier would be remarkably cheap.

One advantage? There's no need to lay new tracks. Aside from certain track upgrades, the major construction for the Northern Tier would be stations and crossings, thus its remarkably short construction phase of two to four years. In comparison, the Hartford line, running from Hartford, Conn., to Springfield spans barely 30 miles, yet cost $750 million.

In contrast, the Northern Tier would stretch over 140 miles for just over double the price.

So what can we do? A key obstacle to the Northern Tier passing through MassDOT is its estimated ridership and projected economic and environmental benefits. All of these metrics are undercounted in the most recent study.

Crucially, many drivers don't use the route that MassDOT assumes in its models as the alternative to the rail line, Route 2. due to its congestion and windy roads. In fact, even as far west as Greenfield, navigation services will recommend drivers take I-90, increasing the vehicle miles traveled and the ensuing carbon footprint.

Seeking to capture the discrepancy, a student-led Northern Tier research team from Williams College has developed and distributed a driving survey, which has already shown more than half of Williams students take the interstate to Boston. Taking the survey is an excellent way to contribute, as all data (which is anonymous) will be sent to MassDOT to factor into their benefit-cost analysis. This link takes you to the 60-second survey.

Another way to help is to spread the word. Talk to local family, friends, and community members, raising awareness of the project's benefits for our region. Attend MassDOT online meetings, and send state legislators and local officials a short letter or email letting them know you support the Northern Tier Passenger Rail Project. If you feel especially motivated, the Williams Northern Tier Research team, in collaboration with the Center for Learning in Action (CLiA), would welcome support.

Living far from the powerbrokers in Boston, it's easy to feel powerless to make positive change for our greater community. But with your support, the Northern Tier Rail can become reality, bringing investment back to Berkshire County, making the world greener, and improving the lives of generations of western Massachusetts residents to come.

Thomas Huckans, class of 2026, is a political science and astronomy major at Williams College, originally from Bloomsburg, Pa.

Survey: This survey records driving patterns from Berkshire county to Boston, specifically route and time. It also captures interest in the restoration of the Northern Tier Passenger Rail. Filling out this survey is a massive help for the cause, and all responses are greatly appreciated. Use this link.

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