by Cori Hilsgen
A team of Kennedy Community School students took second place at the U.S. Academic Triathlon meet held Feb. 1 at Kennedy.
Team members include Hanna Haeg, Caitlin Popp, Monica Rodel, Jamie Deuhs and Hazel Anderson-Larson.
USAT is a creative problem-solving competition for students in fifth through eighth grade.
Kennedy hosted the meet, which included five teams of seventh- and eighth-grade students from the area.
Academic Achievement coordinator Jodie Kragness said a record number of nine teams, about 48 students, from Kennedy participated in USAT this year.
She said five to nine teams compete at each competition. Each team competes four times during the year. Competitions are held at various area schools.
Kragness is responsible for coordinating the USAT practices and hosting competitions.
Students who enjoy writing skits, playing games, answering trivia questions or thinking on their feet enjoy USAT.
At USAT, students work as a team to solve questions from a variety of subject areas. They also work together creatively in problem-solving situations, creating a skit and presenting it to an audience.
Kragness said at Kennedy they continually encourage good sportsmanship. They teach students it’s more important to work as a team than to receive a medal.
She said at USAT students learn how to think outside the box and experience personal growth.
Fifth-grade student Emma Zimmer said she enjoys the “PARTY in a box” experience, which is the part of the competition during which the students are given a scenario and some objects. The students write a skit, create props and a backdrop together as a team. The skit is then presented to all teams and guests of team members.
“I think PARTY in a box gives me confidence to be an actor,” Zimmer said.
Fifth-grade student Abigail Huesers enjoys working with students in other grades.
“USAT was fun because you can do math and PARTY in a box,” she said. “I also like working with sixth-grade students.
Fifth-grade student Sam Brewer likes testing his knowledge.
“What I like about USAT is you get to test your knowledge in a bunch of difference subjects,” Brewer said.
Kragness said the program benefits greatly from volunteer parent coaches.
“We have 10 wonderful parent volunteers who coach the teams,” she said. “Without parent volunteers, this amazing opportunity would not be available to students. Parent volunteers assist in coaching practices and travel with their teams to all competitions.”
Kennedy teams of parent coaches and students include coach Ann Alvord with Alex Alvord, Emmalee Miller, Hope Hartwig, Elizabeth Wolff, Haley App and Karley Essington; coach Tim Haeg with Hanna Haeg, Caitlin Popp, Monica Rodel and Jamie Deuhs; coach Ana Krekelberg with Jake Krekelberg, Abdul Khasim, Gavin Buersken, Mya Jodsaas, Mackenzie Lee and Haley Joos; coach Kristin Wolf and Mason Wolf, Trever Weisser, Sam Holthaus and Nathan Knoblach; coach Susan Heidal Schiltz with Zack Schiltz, Andrew Theisen, Maison Zimmer, Mitchell Heiserich and Parker Cox; coach Cara Zimmer with Emma Zimmer, Enrique Gideon, Keila Swefield, Anna Penticuff, Katie Lygre and Sabrina Wuolu; coaches Tamara and Pat Huesers with Abigail Huesers, Heather Kirchner, Jenna Robideaux, Kassie Krey and Keardyn I-Hawker; coaches Alicia Peters and Sara Jorgenson with Lydia Peters, Micah Jorgenson, Paige Cox, Alison Schwab, and Jared Hennigs; and coach Deb Gold with Sam Brewer, Zane Waite, Makayla Thelen, Rhiannon Theis, Jack Pelzel and Sawyer Engholm.
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.