GENEVA — All Seth Pohorence had to hear was “1973 National League
playoffs” and “Bud Harrelson,” and his hand went right to the
“Pete Rose,” Seth declared.
Correct! Before the question was even completed, Seth had connected
the scant clues with a baseball brawl that took place between Harrelson
and Rose — more than a decade before Seth was even born.
This served as the first question for a recent MasterMinds quiz
competition, and Seth’s quick response started his DeSales High School
team toward yet another victory. Their 170-10 win over Penn Yan
followed a 140-115 triumph over Marcus Whitman earlier that day in
matches held Jan. 12 at DeSales.
DeSales has posted a 7-1 record to hold down first place in its
five-school division. Amazingly, the team also won a division title in
2002-03 — its very first year in MasterMinds — with a 10-4 record.
The brainy competitors then finished in the top eight of all
Rochester-area high schools in the regional playoffs.
According to Paul Riker, DeSales’ coach, the program competed as
varsity in 2002-03 and has added a junior varsity this year that is
also excelling: They lead their three-school division with a 7-1
record. Competitions are held once per month, with the regular season
set to end in March.
MasterMinds is operated in several parts of New York state by a
private organization known as CYPRAS in conjunction with area BOCES
programs. The program began at DeSales through the sponsorship of Peter
Koch, a Geneva-area car dealer who is also on the school’s board of
Each MasterMinds match consists of two seven-minute halves, and is
run by a moderator who asks questions and tabulates point totals. Four
students represent each school at one time, with substitutions allowed.
The moderator fires questions at a rapid pace, and the team that first
buzzes in with the correct answer is given bonus questions with the
chance for additional points.
As is the case with the popular game show “Jeopardy,” questions
cover a vast range of categories — sports, literature, history,
religion, geography, science, current events. Yet the format is
actually modeled after the old “GE College Bowl” television show. In
fact, on a historical note, in 1961 a team from Hobart & William Smith
Colleges — also in Geneva — earned the rare distinction of going
unbeaten for the four-week period the team appeared on the nationally
Some MasterMinds questions would make people with Ph.D.s shiver in
their shoes. And yet, there’s precious little time to dwell on a
“You have to kind of balance between trying to guess and getting it
wrong, or letting the other team get a chance to answer,” said Nick
Hollon, 17, a senior.
“One question might refer to English literature and then they’ll be
talking about last summer’s blockbuster film,” said Seth, 18, also a
senior. “I just try to listen to key facts and key words. My brain will
just start working like a computer with words, names, dates and
Seth, a parishioner of St. Mary’s in Canandaigua, said his team
leans on him especially for sports-related questions. “I’m a huge
scholar in baseball and I can pretty much hold my own in the four major
sports,” he remarked.
Nick, from St. Michael’s Parish in Newark, noted that “I know more
about astronomy, usually, and for some reason children’s literature.”
Along with team standings, individual records are also kept. Nick
and Seth are the leaders of the league thus far, maintaining the No. 1
and No. 2 spots, respectively. Not bad considering that Nick and Seth
were not even DeSales’ top performers last year.
“I was very pleasantly surprised,” Nick said of both the individual
and team success, explaining that DeSales lost some key people from
In all, 13 DeSales students participate in MasterMinds. Remaining
team members for varsity and JV are: senior — Amber Hagadorn; juniors
— Peter Karski, Jasmine Staff and Liz Babiarz; sophomores — Samantha
Hess and Ellen Quarmby; freshmen — Nicholas Baston, Erica Smith, Gavin
Karski, Laura Corona and Laura Mantelli.
Riker, a math teacher at DeSales, said their accomplishments are
made more impressive by the fact that DeSales constantly competes
against schools with much large enrollments.
“It’s pretty much David versus Goliath. Sports are grouped by the
size of the school, but MasterMinds are all on the same level,” Riker