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Worthington High School Knowledge Bowl participants include Patrick Burns (front, from left), Scott Schnieder, Christopher Mayorga, Karina Cuate, Alex Hayenga, and Brandon Stuntebeck. Row 2: Kenneth Garcia, Huy Lam, Zach Clark, Troy Feller, Megan Blanchard, Dillon Pedersen, Bryan Doeden and Gage Langerud. Row 3: DJ Berger, Nick Demuth, Nathan Landwehr, Gordy Moore, Thomas Burns and Cameron Jenson. Missing from photo are Levi Blanchard, Kyle DeBates, and Orissa Nitibhon. (Brian Korthals/Daily Globe)

WHS Knowledge Bowl team looks to next challenge

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WHS Knowledge Bowl team looks to next challenge
Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

WORTHINGTON -- Coming off two consecutive seasons of state competition, the Worthington High School (WHS) Knowledge Bowl teammates are primed to put their brains to work.

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"We have 23 team members this year, many of them freshmen, and I attribute that to the enthusiasm of our seniors who really promoted Knowledge Bowl as a fun and worthwhile extracurricular," said Pat Rolfes, the WHS Knowledge Bowl coach for over a decade. "It's mostly boys, but they were tickled when two girls walked in last fall."

Knowledge Bowl is primarily a cerebral activity that rewards participants for the breadth -- and often randomness -- of their general knowledge. Speed and agility can also play a part in success, as buzzing in to be the first with an answer (think "Jeopardy") is another critical skill.

"Kids who are the best at Knowledge Bowl have a broad level of general knowledge, as well as the ability to recall trivial facts and random bits of information," noted Rolfes, a WHS Spanish teacher during the school day. "You don't have to be an 'A' student to be in Knowledge Bowl--everyone is welcome to be involved, and we can work with anyone--but it helps to be curious and to enjoy answering questions about history, math, literature, geography, science, current events and other topic areas."

Monday will mark the first time this season the WHS team will scrimmage with Knowledge Bowl students from other schools; they plan to travel that day to a meet at Jackson County Central, where a handful of area schools' Knowledge Bowl teams are set for action.

"The kids' favorite event, really, is when they compete against the WHS teachers before the sub-region meet," said Rolfes. "Over the years, the teachers have won most of the years, but the one time the students won, it was mayhem! They were so excited, because they figure if they can beat the teachers, they can beat other students.

"I mean, who is smarter than a group of teachers?"

On March 12, the WHS Knowledge Bowl kids head to Marshall for the sub-region meet. Of the 41 teams competing that day, only the top 22 continue on to the regional meet, scheduled for March 14 in Marshall. The top three teams from the regional meet advance to state competition -- and that's exactly what the bulk of the WHS seniors have done in each of the past two years.

"Last year, the team of Nathan Landwehr, Gordy Moore, Dillon Pedersen, Alex Hayenga and Thomas Burns came home from the state meet in Brainerd with the Heritage Spirit Award, and I couldn't have been prouder if they'd won first place," said Rolfes.

"Out of the more than 100 teams at the state meet, they were elected to receive that award for their sportsmanship, attitude, general behavior and gentlemanly conduct," Rolfes continued. "It speaks so much for the kind of people they are. They shook hands with their competitors, were respectful to the judges and scorekeepers, didn't slam the table when they got a question wrong and were encouraging to those around them.

"We found a place for that trophy in the high school's trophy case in the main lobby."

Seniors Landwehr and Moore are two-time state Knowledge Bowl qualifiers, having teamed with 2011 WHS alumnus Isaac Wass for the 2011 state competition. The final senior in Knowledge Bowl is Megan Blanchard, who is in her first year with the team.

Wass is helping Rolfes this season as an assistant coach; the 23-member team roster is the highest Rolfes has had, as 10-12 students is the more typical WHS participant average.

"Isaac [Wass] is a brilliant, funny guy, and he makes practice even more enjoyable," said Moore. The Knowledge Bowl team begins practicing in December, accelerating to three times a week in February as the regional tournaments draw near.

"Knowledge Bowl has definitely been one of the defining experiences of my high school career," assured Landwehr. "I love the friendly yet competitive atmosphere, meeting a ton of new people at competitions and testing my knowledge."

Added Pedersen, "Knowledge Bowl is one of my favorite activities because it's me and my friends doing something we're good at."

Rolfes is pleased so many students have found a home in Knowledge Bowl, and that the WHS student body has embraced their success in an academically oriented activity.

"At the pep fest last March, the Knowledge Bowl students were recognized and cheered for just as loudly for their state competition qualification as the athletes were," said Rolfes. "That was terrific."

And as the Knowledge Bowl team prepares to mount its 2013 campaign, the participants -- especially the seniors -- are relishing the experience and are quick to express their gratitude for the school's support of the activity.

Said Landwehr, "Mrs. Rolfes is a great and dedicated coach, and it has truly been a pleasure to be a part of this team these past four years."

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