PYA MasterMinds tie for first

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express
MasterMinds Students 2019–2020 include (front row): Elizabeth Cromheecke, Sarah Loucks, Colin Cummings; (back row) Will Parsells, Zach Smith, Jack Grabski, Alaina Smith, Cannon Koen, Emilie Trab, Coach Brenda Travis. Absent: Sophia Smith, Joseph Droney, Owen Bishop, Callie Knapp

PYA Masterminds Team Varsity and Jr. Varsity teams both went 7-1 this season, and sit atop their respective divisions. Varsity, tied with Midlakes for No. 1. This is their second year in a row at claiming the top spot. Team Members are Sarah Loucks, Elizabeth Cromheecke, Colin Cummings, Jack Grabski, Alaina Smith, Zach Smith, Sophia Smith, Joseph Droney, Owen Bishop, Will Parsells, Emilie Trab, Cannon Koen, and Callie Knapp.

The JV team has sole possession of No. 1 for JV teams.

MasterMinds is a quiz bowl-style academic competition for high school students. The organization of MasterMinds is fairly unique. MasterMinds began in the fall of 1993 in the Rochester area with 25 schools. In the fall of 1995, MasterMinds became a BOCES offering and the program expanded into the Buffalo region. Forty-eight schools participated in 1995–96. Fifty-two schools participated in the 1996–97 season. A Jr. Varsity option was made available in 1997–98 with 13 of the 61 schools fielding both teams. In 1999-2000, MasterMinds expanded into the Albany/Capital District area and participation topped 70 schools. In 2003–2004, MasterMinds was introduced into the Syracuse area and total participation crested 100 schools for the first time.

MasterMinds uses a “Quiz Bowl” format for match play. Matches are played in eight-minute halves with each school playing four students at a time. Students must ring-in and be recognized before answering. Correct answers earn that player’s team 10 or 15 points and the opportunity for the team for answer a 30-point bonus question. 

In each region, schools are arranged into different leagues at the start of the school year, playing a 12-game regular season, with the top schools advancing to double elimination playoffs. MasterMinds has divided the state into eight regions: Buffalo (Section VI), Rochester/Genesee Valley (Section V), Syracuse/Watertown/Utica/Rome (Section III), Binghamton/Southern Tier (Section IV), Albany/Capital District (Section II), Adirondacks/North Country (Section VII and X), Catskills/Westchester (Sections 1 and IX), and Long Island (Sections VIII and XI). State tournament play began with the 2005–2006 season.

All public, private, charter and parochial high schools are eligible. Any student from those schools may play. Seventh and eighth graders may be allowed to participate in leagues upon approval of a majority of coaches within that league. There are no scholastic requirements other than those established by individual districts for their own students.

Meets are held after school with each league gathering once every few weeks. Meets are held over the course of the school year with the regular season running from approximately mid- to late October through to early April, followed by playoffs. Each meet is normally designed so that each school plays two matches. 

Questions cover a broad range: art, biology, chemistry, current events, geography, history, literature, music, political science, pop culture, religion and sports. A team plays four students at a time and has the opportunity to substitute as many as all four at the half, so eight different students could play in a single game. 

Many coaches hold weekly practices or hold practices the week immediately prior to a scheduled meet, held roughly once every three weeks. Coaches ask teachers from the various disciplines who some of their better students are, and then supplement that group with anyone who responds to a morning announcement recruiting people who enjoy Trivial Pursuit and Jeopardy. 

Schools are given practice questions at the start of the year. Some coaches do set aside some practice questions and run a ‘real’ game complete with recognizing, ringing-in and the like. It is fun for students and adults as an activity that is more educational and intellectual than sports. It provides students, particularly the non-athletically inclined, with a meaningful opportunity to represent their school in an interscholastic setting. MasterMinds attempts to fill an extracurricular void on the academic side of school.