Published June 27, 2017
The Mathletes conquered the competition in their debut on last night’s episode of NBC’s hit series “Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge.”
The team of four UB undergraduate math majors won the first heat against the more experienced Grey Guard and Better Halves. The youngest team on the show, the Mathletes were billed as the underdogs.
However, for what they lack in years, the students make up for in teamwork, determination and the analytical approach to the course that helped them triumph over each obstacle.
“Our average age is 20; that’s not even old enough to buy a beer,” said 19-year-old sophomore Trevor Bernard. “I do think already that a lot of other competitors here have underestimated us. They see the team name, the Mathletes, and view us as a bunch of nerds.”
Senior Chris Komin said the team likes to “problem-solve rather than power through things. So through the Spartan race, I want to show people that a tall, lanky kid who doesn’t look like much can get out there and get muddy with the best of them.”
Mud wasn’t the only obstacle on the course. Teams had to endure a mile-long course that required them to heave themselves over water using a 450-pound tire, raise and then climb an 850-pound, 25-foot timber pole, roll a barrel up a 75-foot incline, and build a human ladder to ascend a slippery, tilted wall.
Led by team captain Kyle “Wooch” Graff, an elite Spartan athlete who has earned a reputation for racing in thongs — a tradition that was kept alive last night — the Mathletes maintained the lead throughout the entire course. The team shined in obstacles where other teams struggled, such as the Tire Swing, Timber Drag and Slip Wall.
Rounding out the Mathletes are juniors Zoe Herrick and Ellen Lutnick. The team of five placed first in the heat and advanced to the second round, where they will face stiffer competition against Kid Courage. The Better Halves also will compete in the second round.
The students are among 24 teams from around the nation vying for the opportunity to win $250,000.
But no matter how far they advance, the Mathletes are already champions at UB, in Western New York and in their hometowns. The team has been featured in The Buffalo News, WBFO, WGRZ and the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
Episodes of “Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge” air at 10 p.m. on Mondays on NBC.
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