Webbanner.jpg (24693 bytes)


In Memoriam
Student Association
Graduate Students
Recent Graduates
Fear Film Festival
Insect Expo
Linnaean Games
Alumni Necrology


Linnaean Games with the El Niņo Dream Team...
by Mark Carroll

For the first time in the history of Linnaean games competition, we UIUC graduate students shared in victory at the 1998 NCB branch meeting. I would like to say that this victory came about as a result of months of intense preparation and practice, but it didn’t. I would attribute it more to a massive ice storm, courtesy of the 1997-1998 El Niņo. My entry onto the team came on a black ice stretch of interstate somewhere in Illi-nois, where Matt O’Neal popped the question as "Ah, hey Mark, ah, you wouldn’t want to do the Linnaean games thing, would you?" How could I refuse under the circumstances?

After 29 hours of skidding along the icy interstates, Matt and I pulled into Sioux City to find a much reduced crowd at NCB meetings. Most of the competition had not made it, but neither had our UIUC teammates. Two does not make a team in Linnaean games. Fortunately, half of the team from Kansas State University happened to be in the same situation, separated by 250 miles of ice from the rest of the Wildcats. To paraphrase a famous quote, politics make strange bedfellows, and ice storms even more so. In clear violation of the rules, but in the spirit of ecumenical entomology, we joined together to form the El Niņo Dream Team. The four of us invoked the powers of entomological greats C.V. Riley, Asa Fitch, Robert Metcalf, and Sir Vincent Wigglesworth as each man’s nom de guerre.

While other teams engaged in buzzer finger warm-ups, we reviewed (or read for the first time) the basic rules ("push the buzzer, be acknowledged, then answer"). From all this, you may get the impression that we were amateurs at this game. And that we were. At one point, Asa Fitch forgot that he was the first state entomologist of New York. C.V. Riley, unfamiliar with the rules and gadgets concocted in this century, answered twice before being acknowledged by the judges. Metcalf methodically identified insecticides to the proper class, if not compound. And Wigglesworth once gave an ab-solutely brilliant answer to the previous question. But our sense of having nothing to lose and everything to gain, combined with a healthy willingness to publicly humiliate ourselves with the wrong answer, propelled this Dream Team into the final round against the favored team from Ohio State. Our raw enthusiasm was just edged out: OSU won a hotly contested final by just a few questions. Still, our Dream Team had taken second place and earned a berth at the Games in Las Vegas. We believed that a few months of preparation could turn an anomaly into a team of true national champions.

Alas, it was not meant to be. In Las Vegas, we received the news that we had been finally DENIED by the MAN (or the COMMITTEE of the MAN), on the grounds that our team heinously violated the rules by its hybrid competition. Admittedly, our team now con-sisted of graduate students from UIUC, KSU, and MSU, plus one postdoc, so the MAN was right on this count. Our team took the news in stride, knowing well the threat we poised to the rest of the competition, but realizing that this El Niņo had run its course.

But I’m still predicting an early return of El Niņo in the year 2000. At least from Illinois.

The El Niņo Dream Team would like to thank Kevin Steffey and those that gave us a chance to "show what we know" at NCB ’98.


Integrative Biology University of Illinois

Updated 12/09/99