By CASSANDRA SHOFAR
CLEVELAND â€” Medina County native Jason Nicholas never imagined he would one day host the show he grew up watching as a kid.
Nicholas, a meteorologist who was born in Hinckley Township and moved to Medina when he was 10, hosted his first season of WEWS-TV NewsChannel 5â€™s â€œAcademic Challengeâ€ this year.
â€œItâ€™s my first season. One season is down, it was great,â€ Nicholas said, adding this is the first time heâ€™s hosted a game show and heâ€™s glad it was â€œAcademic Challenge.â€
â€œI had two older brothers that went to Highland (High School), so I was always interested in it,â€ Nicholas said of watching the show growing up. â€œI enjoyed game show watching in general and it was a game show that caught my eye, so I enjoyed watching it.â€
Medina County native Jason Nicholas (far right) just wrapped up his first season as host of â€œAcademic Challengeâ€ on NewsChannel 5. Nicholas said he watched the show growing up because his two older brothers went to Highland High School. The Highland Convolutions team placed third in the showâ€™s final episode of its three highest-scoring teams. The Convolutions include (seated, from left) Melissa Erikson, Greg Griffin and Alyssa Ryba, and advisers Andrew Dutt (standing, from left) and Barbara Ott. (â€œAcademic Challengeâ€ photo)
â€œAcademic Challenge,â€ which started in 1964 and was called â€œItâ€™s Academic,â€ involves three teams of students representing schools from around northern Ohio competing for points by answering questions covering topics such as math, science, history and current events. At the end of each program, the points are totaled and at the end of the season, the three highest-scoring teams compete in the championship match.
The final episode of this seasonâ€™s â€œAcademic Challenge,â€ which had 78 high schools competing, aired at 8 p.m. Saturday. Highland High Schoolâ€™s Convolutions team competed against Gates Mills Hawken and Rocky River Magnificat, finishing third and receiving $4,000 from Westfield Insurance Co. Hawken took first place, receiving a $10,000 check from Westfield, and Magnificat finished second, receiving $6,000 from Westfield, a Highland press release states.
Highlandâ€™s Convolutions team â€” with members Greg Griffin, Alyssa Ryba, Melissa Erikson, Will Schneider, Emily Schubert, Sarah Schubert, Allie Kolberg, Ellen Weincek, Nicholas Tietz and Anne Druesedow â€” had 10 wins and five losses in the North East Ohio Academic League and 12 wins and three losses in the Medina County Academic League, the press release states.
â€œMy favorite part is meeting the students from the different schools across the area,â€ the 30-year-old Nicholas said. â€œEach student is unique in his or her own way. Itâ€™s nice to see students that age excited about academics and working hard and studying hard for the show.â€
He added: â€œItâ€™s great that Westfield Insurance gives us a platform for them.â€
Westfield Insurance, the sponsor of â€œAcademic Challengeâ€ since 2003, awarded $34,000 in grant money to the top 10 scoring teams, which is used for educational needs of the students in the winning schools, NewsChannel 5â€™s Web site says.
Highland will use the money to purchase two new buzzer systems for the Medina County academic teams to use during competitions and to pay for study and quiz materials and entry fees for future academic competitions, the press release states.
Nicholas said he couldnâ€™t help but be excited when Highland finished in the top three, especially since it is his brothersâ€™ alma mater.
â€œIt was nice to see a Medina County school represented in the top three. Highland is a great school,â€ Nicholas said. â€œMedina (High School) did really well, too.â€
Nicholas, a Medina High School graduate as well as a graduate of Ohio Universityâ€™s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, studied meteorology at Mississippi State University, completing its Broadcast Meteorology Program in 2004, his biography says.
Before joining the Power of 5 Weather Team in 2006, Nicholas said he spent time at KRQE-TV in Albuquerque, N.M., at WSAZ-TV in Huntington, W.Va., and at WCHS-TV in Charleston, W.Va.
Nicholas, who also does the weekend editions of NewsChannel 5â€™s news at 6 and 11 p.m., said he got the hosting job by chance after taking the job with Channel 5 in June 2006.
â€œThere was an opening for hosting â€œAcademic Challenge.â€ They asked me to host it,â€ he said. â€œThere is such a rich tradition and rich history (with the show) that itâ€™s truly an honor, an unimaginable honor.â€
Being his first time hosting a game show, Nicholas was presented with a few challenges, such as learning to pronounce all the words right, getting to know the questions and being comfortable with them, as well as taping four episodes a day.
â€œSome of the pronunciations were pretty tough, some of the German composers and French artists,â€ Nicholas said, adding the more he practiced the better he got.
â€œI learned a lot and practiced and I think I kept getting better,â€ he said. â€œI am looking forward to another season.â€
Shofar may be reached at 330-721-4044 or firstname.lastname@example.org.