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Brains are in the game

April 11, 2010|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. -- Did you know:

Mallon was Typhoid Mary's last name.

Denmark sold the Virgin Islands to the U.S. in 1916.

The International Tennis Hall of Fame is in Newport, R.I.

There are 42 U.S. gallons in a barrel of oil.

Hannibal Hamlin was vice president during Abraham Lincoln's first term.

If you knew the answer to these and 95 other questions, you would have been welcomed on any one of the 24 teams at the 13th Brain Games competition Sunday at Shepherd University.

Sunday's winning team was "S" Words for $400, Alex, the team from The Herald-Mail Co., with 60 correct answers. Coming in second was South Mountaineers, with 57 correct answers and NCTC Trivia Splatter, with 55 correct answers.

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Herald-Mail team members were Andrew Schotz, Don Aines, Bob Fleenor, Marlo Barnhart, Crystal Schelle and Tiffany Arnold.

Kathryn Murphy, a member of the 16 eers, aka Lucky 13 team, won one of the biggest door prizes -- a large basket of chocolate.

The 16 eers, which changes its name every year, has been at every Brain Games since the beginning. In all those years, it has never won a trophy.

"We tied for second once. It was in the second year. We lost in the playoff," Murphy said.

The results in the first round were probably a harbinger of things to come for the team for the rest of the day.

"We didn't do very well," Murphy said.

When asked why the team keeps coming back year after year, Murphy said, "It's because we like it."

The games are sponsored by Literacy Volunteers of the Eastern Panhandle. Betty Kreinik, president of the organization's board of directors, said the games are a major fundraiser. They take in $3,000 to $4,000 every year.

Literacy Volunteers' headquarters are above the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Public Library, with satellite offices in Morgan and Jefferson counties, Kreinik said.

The eight-member board is currently five short, she said.

The organization has about 25 active volunteers, but it needs more, Kreinik said.

"We train our volunteers and match them up with students," she said.

Students include people who can read enough to get by but who need improved skills to do everyday things such as filling out an application, taking a written driver's exam, improving the ability to better comprehend what they read, or polishing up their reading and writing ability to improve their chances of getting job promotions.

Others need skills for GED exams.

Volunteers teach English as a second language to students in classroom settings, Kreinik said.

This year for the first time, the 100 questions were written by Judy Malone, organizer of the games. They had been written for years by Mike Austin, a professor at Shepherd University who recently moved from the area, Malone said

To find suitable questions, Malone mined the Internet, libraries, books "and things I heard."

The change in authors threw a curve to the South Mountaineers, a team of Mensas, who have attained a score within the upper 2 percent of the general population on an approved intelligence test. The Mountaineers are always the team to watch -- and fear.

Not so much this year though, thanks to Malone's choice of questions.

"We didn't do well in the second round," Mountaineer Jan Todd said. "The questions are a lot harder than before," she said, a concern echoed by other teams.

"There are a lot more pop culture questions than we're used to," Todd said.

Her team aces such topics as classic literature, the sciences, geography and history, she said.

There were no literature or science questions in the 25 questions in the second round, and only one about geography.

"We had a horrible second round," lamented a member of a nearby team.

One team in particular trouble was the Ph. Divas. Only three of their six members showed up for the games -- Karri Schnably, Lyn Widmyer and Jean Anne "Trixie" Pugh.

"Fortunately, we're the smartest members on the team," Widmyer said.

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