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Who are the St John’s College team representing Cambridge in the University Challenge final?

For the fifth year in a row, a team of Cambridges brightest are about to do battle in the toughest q..

By admin , in Cambridge , at April 22, 2018

For the fifth year in a row, a team of Cambridges brightest are about to do battle in the toughest quiz show on TV.

Its become second nature for the city to have a team in the University Challenge final, and this year its four students from St Johns College who are stepping up to the plate to take on Oxfords Merton College, as well as the fiendish questions of host Jeremy Paxman.

The team from St John's College (Image: BBC/St John's College)

Its the first time a team from Johns has made the final of the long-running show, which first began in 1962.

The team have stormed their way through the contest, winning every match so far.

In their semi-final appearance they defeated the University of Edinburgh 270-60, gaining 95 points before Edinburgh even got their first starter question.

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University Challenge

The team remained fast on their buzzers, lengthening their lead by correctly answering questions on pineapple-producing countries, Lord William Bentinck, native languages, and composer students of Schoenberg.

The final will air at 8.30pm, on BBC2.


St Johns last appearance

The colleges last appearance in the semi-final was shrouded in controversy.

In 2009 they were pitted against Corpus Christi College, Oxford captained by Gail Trimble who was nicknamed by the tabloids as “the human Google”.

St Johns lost, 250-150, and Corpus Christi went on the win the competition, beating the University of Manchester in the final.

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Unfortunately for Corpus Christi it was discovered after the final was aired that due to a technicality one of the team members, Sam Kay, had broken the rules.

Although he was a student at the start of the series he graduated before the final rounds were filmed. As a result Corpus Christi were disqualified and the title went to the University of Manchester.

It is still uncertain whether Lincoln College, Oxford or St Johns College, Cambridge are technically the runners-up for this series.

The Bridge of Sighs, at St John's

Who are the team?

The four-strong St Johns team have all been profiled on the college website. They are:

James Devine-Stoneman, team captain

Subject: PhD in Materials Science (superconducting spintronics)

James Devine-Stoneman (Image: BBC/St John's College)

A fan of the show since childhood, James was nominated as team captain during the selection process, and has led the team ever since.

He said: “It was important to ensure that the team could cover a broad range of questions thrown at us.

"Rosie had the highest score of anyone on the written test and was very strong on English literature, John-Clark is very good on military history and Matt swung it for me with his mental arithmetic skills.”

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But as captain one of the hardest thing about the show is making snap judgements under pressure.

He said: “You have to decide who on your team is most likely to know the answer – you dont want to buzz and get it wrong, when someone else could have known the answer, and on the other hand you dont want to stay quiet if someone else then gets the answer wrong”.

Rosie McKeown

Subject: French and German

Rosie McKeown (Image: BBC/St John's College)

The first-year student always dreamed of appearing on the show, and was delighted to make the grade so early in her university career.

She said: “I brushed up on my areas of expertise – literature, history and word puzzles – by watching reruns of the show and trying to answer the questions before the contestants.

“But I think whatever happens on the day of filming its important just to have fun and treat it as a really good quiz.”

Each team on University Challenge is allowed a mascot for good luck so the St Johns team tracked down a large stuffed toy eagle and named her Maggie.

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However, Maggies spot on the team was jeopardised by the University Challenge crew and their fear of product placement.

Rosie said: “They told us that Maggie was a collectors item and wasnt allowed to be on show, so she sat behind our desk the entire time giving us moral support.”

Matt Hazell

Subject: Veterinary Medicine

Matt Hazell (Image: BBC/St John's College)

Filming for the show took place while the would-be vet was cramming for his finals.

His areas of expertise include animals, biology, medicine and sports – particularly football.

“University Challenge really likes to throw curveball questions at you that are designed to confuse,” he said.

“The trick is to discard the parts of Jeremys questions you dont know anything about!”

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So what was Paxman really like? “We had a nice chat in the lift,” Matt reveals.

“His was pretty grumpy when we first started filming because hed already done four filming sessions a day for three days, but his grouchy comments improved throughout the day.”

John-Clark Levin

Subject: PhD in Politics and International Studies

John-Clark Levin (Image: BBC/St John's College)

As an American John-Clark wasnt as familiar with the show as the others, but said he found the experience went by in a blur.

He said the production staff and other teams on set were all extremely friendly, but what of the Paxman?

“Oh he has a fearsome reputation, but hes actually a bit of a ham”, he said.

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No pressure, but Cambridge expects…

The John's team are hoping to continue a successful run for Cambridge, in the university's fifth consecutive final appearance.

Here's what happened in past finals.


Eric Monkman

Last year saw 'Monkmania' grip the nation, as Wolfson College's Eric Monkman became an unlikely celebrity.

The Canadian economics student developed a legion of fans as he defeated fellow Cantab and close friend Bobby Seagull's Emmanuel team, before falling short against Balliol College Oxford.


Oscar Powell and Hannah Woods deliver their University Challenge trophy to the porters' lodge at Peterhouse (Image: Hannah Woods)

Cambridge's oldest college provided the winners in 2016, as Peterhouse stormed to victory.

Geological sciences student Oscar Powell gained attention in th early rounds for his strained thoughtful expressions, while captain Hannah Woods later revealed she had received support from the late Sir Roger Moore.


Ted Loveday (left) with the 2015 Gonville and Caius team

An unusual catchphrase took hold in 2015, as Gonville and Caius' Ted Loveday hit the spotlight with his passioned cry of 'hapax legomenon!' (a Greek term meaning a word or phrase only used once, but of course you already knew that).

His pre-show preparation of skimming Wikipedia articles clearly paid off, as the team triumphed over Magdalen College Oxford.


The winning Trinity College team of 2014 L-R: Richard Freeland, team captain, Ralph Morley, Filip Drnovsek Zorko, Matthew Ridley

2014s final turned out to be a walk in the park for the Trinity team, who humiliated Oxfords Somerville College by 240 points to 135.

Captained by classicist Ralph Morley, the team impressed with their knowledge of everything from spectroscopy to Jane Austen.

However the final wasnt without controversy, with many criticising the sight of two all-male teams making it to the final round.


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