St. John’s Prep hopes to continue its winning tradition at Knowledge Bowl

by Cori Hilsgen –

St. John’s Prep High School is in the middle of its Knowledge Bowl season and is hoping to continue its winning tradition of competing for the state championship.

SJP has won the “Class A” state tournament three times in the past seven years, including last year.

At the recent Jan. 26 Elk River Invitational, SJP took first place in the varsity division; Sartell High School took second place; and Buffalo High School took third place.

In the junior varsity division, Buffalo took first, SJP took second and Sartell took third.

The winning SJP varsity members included senior Brenden Wichman; junior Alivia Tacheny; sophomore Tom Skahen; and freshman Sam Rogers.

The SJP junior varsity team that placed second included sophomore Eric Magaw and Hannah Moen; and freshmen Nick Haeg and Justin Terhaar.

Wichman was on last year’s state championship team. He has competed for five years.

“I enjoy the chance to encounter other people of a similar intellectual mindset,” Wichman said. “The state tournament is a wonderful opportunity to compete with the best teams in the state in Knowledge Bowl. This year has been great because I know my teammates this year outside of Knowledge Bowl as well as friends, which I enjoy.

Wichman believes SJP has a chance at continuing its winning tradition.

“I think we have a good chance of getting back to the state tournament this year because we’ve been doing well, have a good spread of knowledge and are getting progressively better each meet,” Wichman said.

Tacheny has been in Knowledge Bowl since fifth grade.

“This is my seventh year,” Tacheny said. “I participate in Knowledge Bowl because it’s fun. A lot of people think of it as work, or extra school, but it’s actually really enjoyable. You get to spend lots of time with friends, meeting people from other schools with similar interests and winning trophies, without any physical activity.”

Beginning in November, team members practice twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, for more than an hour. Practices include different strategies for buzzing in quickly and brushing up on knowledge that is not always learned in class, such as details about grammar, history and other things.

“In practice, we run through questions from old meets and try out different combinations of people for teams,” Tacheny said.

Competitions are usually all-day events and take place on Saturdays during the months of January and February.

SJP has six teams that compete at Knowledge Bowl meets. Most meets consist of 60 to 75 teams of three to five competitors.  Schools can bring as many teams as they choose. Junior varsity teams usually consist of freshmen and sophomore students; varsity teams are usually made up of juniors and seniors.

Most meets begin with teams competing in a written round of 60 questions, followed by four 45-question oral rounds covering a wide range of academic subjects.

SJP knowledge bowl is coached by Charles Miller, an SJP physics and astronomy instructor. Its assistant coach is Jen Daiker, an SJP history instructor. Miller said the school has had a lot of success in Knowledge Bowl.

“SJP has won a spot in the ‘Class A’ state tournament for all seven years I’ve been at Prep,” Miller said.

The tournament season begins in March. Five teams from the region later go on to the state tournament, which is divided into three “Class AA” teams and two “Class A” teams based on enrollment size.

The Minnesota State Knowledge Bowl meet is held in April. Due to a measles outbreak the year the tournament was to be held in Thief River Falls, it’s now held in the Brainerd Lakes Area at resorts such as Cragun’s, Madden’s and Breezy Point.

“Having the tournament at Cragun’s Resort was a more relaxed setting than a school building would be,” Wichman said.

It is a two-day event which is sponsored and governed by the Minnesota Service Cooperatives. On the first day, all teams are introduced at an evening banquet. Next, a written round of 60 questions is scored and teams are ranked.

Teams are then grouped by their current standings and are “power-ranked,” or grouped together by their current standing, for five 45-question oral rounds. The team that finishes with the highest total score is the state champion.

The top three winning teams receive trophies and the top six teams receive medals. Any ties among the top six are broken by a 15-question “overtime.” A Heritage Spirit Award is given to one team from each class that demonstrates a positive attitude and sportsmanship, as voted on by the meet readers, coaches, computer operators and other teams.

The winning tradition at SJP was started by two mothers, Sandy Harrison and Karen Lund, who coached a team to their first state championship in 2006.

Miller said 2012 had the best team yet, leading the state tournament from start to finish. The members of that team are currently students at Columbia University, Scripps College and the University of Minnesota, plus Wichman, who hasn’t yet decided where he will go to school next year.

Cori Hilsgen

Cori Hilsgen

Hilsgen is a contributing reporter for the Newsleaders. The central Minnesota native is a wife, mother and grandmother. She has a Bachelor's degree in Organizational Management and Communication from Concordia University – St. Paul, MN and enjoys learning about and sharing other people's stories through the pages of the Newsleaders.
Cori Hilsgen
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