For the first time in more than 10 years of competing, Horowhenua College placed runnerup in this year's prestigious Jimmy Carter Quiz.

Leading until the final moments, the Horowhenua quiz masters were pipped into second place by just two points, by Palmerston North Boys High School.

Last year Horowhenua placed fifth and came third in 2015.

Horowhenua College English and classical studies teacher Simon Smith coached the quiz team alongside fellow teacher Sue Corbett.

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Mr Smith, no newcomer to the world of quizzes, won New Zealand Mastermind in 1982 and represented NZ at the 1983 World Mastermind competition.

In 1986 he represented NZ in the Sale Of the Century in Melbourne, Australia and in 1990 wrote the questions for NZ television series Jeopardy.

He also competed in The Weakest Link in 2001.

Mr Smith said over the years Horowhenua teams had seen the Jimmy Carter Quiz as more a game, however, more recent results had turned this around.

He said they had surprised both him and themselves at how good they are.

One of the quiz questions to name five Caribbean countries saw team member Oliver Bau name all 26 countries, hoping to get bonus points.

"We will be taking the quiz quite seriously next year," said Mr Smith.

Leading up to the competition the five-member team practiced general knowledge during each lunch break for a week.

Madison Walsh has been competing in the team for the past three years.

Next year will be her final year and she is hoping the team will take first place so she can "go out with a bang".

Being a part of the team had given her a sense of pride in her school, she said.

Horowhenua College principal Grant Congdon said that it was the best result the school had achieved.

"It's a great reflection of how competitive we are when it comes to the clash of top academic students competing against each other," he said.

"The result is celebrated by the whole college."

The quiz is named after former US president Jimmy Carter, who accepted the Middle Districts Lions Club invitation to come to New Zealand to speak at a fund raising dinner.

In his honour the Lions Clubs set up and continue to organise an annual quiz night for college students and every year to date Mr Carter has sent a message to be read out at the competition.