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Team of UB 'nerds' advances in NBC Spartan challenge

The University at Buffalo team of math students have advanced to the next round of "Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge," the NBC obstacle course show that features teams persevering through a series of physically grueling and often muddy challenges.

The UB team of Chris Komin and Ellen Lutnick, both of Grand Island; Zoe Herrick of Rochester; and Trevor Bernard of Long Island pulled away from two other teams on a challenge that involved jumping from a swinging tire to a landing area without falling into a pool of water below. They also quickly pushed an 850-pound timber pole into a position so that each could crawl up the pole and over a wall.

UB math students take on NBC's Spartan challenge

Throughout the episode, which aired Monday night, producers had plenty of fun playing up the "geek" element of the UB team, dubbed the "Mathletes" because of their shared interest in mathematics at UB.

Announcer Kelvin Washington referred to their technique in scaling a slippery wall as "breaking down the 45-degree slip wall like a geometry equation." The team easily dragged a 750-pound sled 100 feet across concrete, prompting Washington to utter the inevitable: "It's revenge of the nerds."

And when it was clear the Mathletes would prevail, announcer Apolo Ohno, the former Olympic speedskater, declared: "The Mathletes erased every math nerd stereotype."

The second season of "Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge" kicked off June 19, and Monday's episode was the first appearance by the UB squad.

The Mathletes are expected to make four appearances on the show in an effort to win $250,000 in prize money. A total of 24 teams are competing. Each team has a fifth member, a captain who is an elite athlete and is assigned to the team by the show's producers.

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