Wednesday, April 28, 2004

*LONG BLOG ENTRY ALERT*

Model UN tomorrow. Got new shoes (black slingbacks) for the occasion.

My editor sent my article back to revise 4 times in 2 hours. He didn't edit the language, moreso, the "flow."

"Uh ... this ending."

"Yeah?"

"I liked it the first time I read it. Now ..."

"Not so much?"

"Yeah. Change it."

"To what?"

"I don't know."

"But that's all he did ... He walked to the door."

"Change it."

But I guess he liked my final draft because he's going to send over a photographer on Monday to take a picture of me posse.

Here's the article:

Adam Lohonyai is hunched over, nervously tapping his Ziploc container that's filled with Cheerios.

He and his lunchtime teammates are staring intently at Sawford, the librarian, who is sitting at the head of the brown plywood table. Sawford turns the page and smiles at the question written before him.

"Spanish, Italian and French are known as what?"

A green bulb lights up to his right, letting off a shrill beep.

"The Romantic Languages," replies Lohonyai.

"Correct."

The opposite team is up in arms.

"What?" one member cries. "It's Romance!"

A verbal tussle ensues egged on by spectators, but simmers into a collective chuckle no sooner than it began.

"This always happens," says Sawford chuckling. "Both are acceptable."

Lohonyai (pronounced Lo-HONE-yaw-ee) belongs to the Westmount Academic Challenge team who meet every other day in the library to practice. It is made up of four teen titans of trivia, ranging in age from 15 to 18, who will be duking it out with the best brains of Ontario May 15 & 16 at the University of Toronto. They beat out 22 other teams early April to place second at the Regionals. The team is keeping the tradition of participating in Canada's longest running quiz show, "Reach for the Top" and its non-televised counterpart, "Schoolreach" alive.

Players from across Canada fight tooth and nail to successfully advance to the Provincials and, if they're lucky, the National Championships shown on the Canadian Learning Channel hosted by Daniel Richler (son of the famed Mordecai.)

With smarts like that, it's understandable that images of suspenders-wearing homebodies with a penchant for fantasy board games are conjured up. Who else would actively (and voluntarily) partake in this sort of activity?

A lot of people and with backgrounds that couldn't be any more different.

Take Lohonyai, for example. At first glance, this 5'10" trumpet-playing ingenue and leading track athlete doesn't look like your typical whiz kid. His daily uniform screams "jock," helpfully underscored by the presence of his New Balance sneakers. But it isn't until he reveals that his future plans include going into Materials Science and Engineering at McMaster University do you realize his presence in the quiz tournament circuit is, well, to be expected.

He was born in Toronto to first-generation Hungarian and Greek immigrants who moved to Newcastle when he was not quite three. His parents separated the following year, so his mother decided to move him and his younger sister, Teresa, to Hamilton, eventually settling on the East Mountain.

In grade three, Lohonyai attended Helen Detwiler Elementary School and met Mr. "Don't call me Carlee" Carle.

"He would play trivia games with us [once or twice a month]," Lohonyai reminisced. "It was girls against boys and the boys always asked me to help them out."

"I was having fun."

The questions included:

"What continent is Pakistan located on? What's a landlocked country in Africa? What's 178+45?"

Considering the average third grader might not even know the definition of "landlocked", this was quite an impressive feat to know the answers to.

The kid was hooked from then on.

It's now a quarter past noon. The practice session is coming to an end. Volunteer recruits fidget in their seats, rolling Saran wrap into semi-translucent projectiles. These lunchtime fillers don't want to be there, their wallflower-like presence ignored in favour of the magnificent four.

Lohonyai's blue Westmount sweatshirt unintentionally contrasts with the red T-shirt worn by the leader of the opposite team, Ray Lawlor (who is Lohonyai's teammate during official competitions.)

It is clear to everyone, including the curious onlookers who shout jibberish to psyche the teams out and the nearby girls who are carrying on a distracting conversation about potted plants, that the game is really being played by these two.

They spar in succession.

"The Art Ross trophy," Lohonyai replies quickly, smirking in Lawlor's direction.

"Gah, I had that one!" Lawlor shouts. "This buzzer doesn't work."

He presses it. A red light appears.

The humour isn't lost on him as friendly ribbing ensues.

The session goes on for another five minutes before all the equipment is packed away in a cardboard box that is in dire need of a duct tape facelift.

Lohonyai swings his backpack over his shoulders and stuffs another handful of Cheerios in his mouth.

"That's good stuff," he says as he heads for the door, walking in time with the music that signals the beginning of class.


Uh ... embellished for effect. Please don't hate me.

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