The challenge is on for university team

Sheffield University team from the current series of University Challenge.  Picture: ITV STUDIOS 2011
Sheffield University team from the current series of University Challenge. Picture: ITV STUDIOS 2011

FOUR of Sheffield’s best brains have been warming up for their starter for ten before Britain’s top inquisitor - at a humble weekly pub quiz.

A Sheffield University team is preparing for a quarter final showdown against a crack side from Oxford’s Magdelen College next Monday on TV’s University Challenge.

And to keep the old grey matter sharp they’ve been taking on the regulars at the Mount Pleasant in Norton Lees - bidding for a top prize of a princely £10.

It’s not exactly like facing Jeremy Paxman in ITV’s Manchester studios - but it’s certainly better than nothing.

“We’re probably the least prepared team in the competition,” said Hugh Bennett, aged 22, a fourth year zoology undergraduate.

“Turning out for a pub quiz is all we do, but we’ve heard Oxford Brookes University have the current Brain of Britain helping them to train.”

The rest of the team consists of postgrads Andy Bolton, studying geological archaeology, Steve Jesper, librarianship, with captain Tom Thirkell, a fourth year biologist, and Tristram Cole, 30, a post graduate law student.

Tristram has been enjoying his five minutes of fame and has been recognised in the street and on campus.

He also got the chance to speak to quizmaster Jeremy Paxman after filming.

He said: “Being recognised is totally bizarre, a very strange thing to experience, but it was great to meet Mr Paxman.

“I thought he was going to be really intimidating but he was actually very welcoming and approachable.

“I guess he doesn’t need to be quite so mean when he’s talking to us students instead of politicians.

“He even gave me his autograph.”

So far Steve, aged 30, from Dinnington has been the reserve, sitting out a big win over Newcastle and a close-fought duel with University College London.

“I don’t mind not actually being on the programmes too much - but if it goes on much longer, I might have to poison someone,” he said.

Hugh said University Challenge was the quiz he remembered first from his childhood.

“Between us we had a good team with mum being good at arts, dad knowing lots of geography and my brother and I enjoying history and science.

“We had it all covered.

“If you’re the kind of person who wants to be in quizzes, then you’re interested in lots of things. I don’t think sudden intensive preparation helps particularly.”

In their last warm up pub quiz at the Mount Pleasant the lads came second with a score of 15 out of 20, finishing behind a team of locals who scored 18.

They’ll be hoping to go onebetter on Monday.