Merton’s 2019-20 University Challenge team - image: © BBC

Merton College Quiz Society

This has been another successful year for the Merton College Quiz Society. 

This year, we entered three teams to the university wide Inter-Collegiate Quiz competition, of which our A team reached the quarter-finals. This was despite three of our members being ineligible to take part: because of regularly playing for the university A or B teams, we were instead helping to write the questions.

As far as those reading this are concerned, our most prominent activity is the selection of the University Challenge team, with which we have had considerable recent success at reaching the televised rounds. The Merton team for the 2019-20 series, consisting of James Kempton, Rowan Wilson and Jacob Robertson, captained by Nick Ridpath and with Lucienne Pullen as reserve, were successful in making it onto the television; you might have seen them on air in July 2019. The 2020-21 Merton team – William Isotta, Tom McLean and Conor Sheehan, captained by Pax Butchart, and with Elisabeth Le Maistre as reserve – have also made it onto the television. The series is on air from July 2020; you'll have to watch it to find out how they get on!

James Kempton from the 2019-20 Merton University Challenge team wrote the following about his experiences.

‘After a rigorous internal selection process, we were interviewed by the producers. Whatever criteria they sought, we were apparently deemed to possess, and were greatly excited to receive an invitation to compete on the show.

‘Come February that we did. Upon arrival at the home of University Challenge, in Salford, we discovered that we would be playing Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (CCCC), in one of the first round Oxbridge clashes. A tight affair ensued with much to-ing and fro-ing of the lead. I suspect this led to an exciting viewing experience, as much as it did to a nerve-wracking experience on our parts. After about 25 minutes of competition the gong sounded to see the score at Merton 140-195 CCCC. Historically 140 would be sufficient in about half of the series to be a highest scoring loser and thereby provide the opportunity to vie for a final two places in the second round. Alas, it was not be, with the highest scoring loser at 145 points.

‘CCCC went on to reach the final where they were finally defeated by Imperial College London, in beautiful justice, captained by old Mertonian Caleb Rich (2014). No team scored higher than us against CCCC until the final.

‘While we were naturally disappointed with the result, the experience was a great one. To have one’s named called to the high heavens by Roger Tilling, to meet the man himself, Jeremy Paxman, to have my introduction lambasted on Twitter, it was all great fun.

‘It was a pleasure to practise and compete alongside my teammates and I thank them greatly. To the current Merton team, bonne chance!’

Leonie Woodland (2016)
Quiz Society President 2019-20