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WHS Knowledge Bowl going to states

The Worthington 1 Knowledge Bowl team showed off their hardware after clinching first place in Region 8 Knowledge Bowl competition earlier this month. They will advance to the state meet in Brainerd on April 11-12. Front, kneeling: Thomas Burns and Alex Hayenga. Back, from left: Dillon Pedersen, Nathan Landwehr, Gordy Moore. (Ryan McGaughey/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON - For the second consecutive year, Worthington High School (WHS) is sending its top Knowledge Bowl five-some to state Knowledge Bowl competition.

The WHS Worthington 1 team (comprised of seniors Thomas Burns, Alex Hayenga, Nathan Landwehr, Gordy Moore and Dillon Pedersen) will compete April 11-12 at Cragun's Resort in Brainerd, Minn., as will the Region 8 second- and third-place teams (from Mountain Lake and Murray County Central, respectively).

After the WHS crew came away with a first-place finish at the March 12 sub-region Knowledge Bowl event in Marshall, it seemed promising they might be able to repeat their previous-year championship at the Region 8 tournament on March 14.

But that's not to say they were wholly confident.

"We had a little bit of pressure on us to do what we did last year, to place first at regions again, and we didn't want to let down our other teammates," commented Hayenga. "We were feeling the pressure, for sure.

"But now that's behind us, we can relax. It's really fun to go to state and see how good some of the other teams can be; it's unbelievable what some high school kids know."

At the Region 8 tournament on March 14, Worthington 1 did indeed repeat as champions, scoring 113 points (on questions ranging from geography to math to literature) to capture the top slot.

"I was very happy with the outcome, and so pleased with how well all four of our competing teams did at regions," assured WHS Knowledge Bowl coach Pat Rolfes. "There's a lot of promise for the future, because our freshmen teammates were holding their own against seniors from other schools, and that's pretty good--I'm very happy with that. It's been an awesome year with all of our kids."

Rolfes knows the competition at the state meet is "stiff," with the WHS boys coming from the absolute smallest school in the AA tier.

"There are teams from a lot of very large schools, and from many private and prep academies, that make it to this competition," cautioned Rolfes.

But in 2012, Worthington 1 nevertheless brought home the Heritage Spirit Award from the state meet, in recognition of their good attitudes and sportsmanship above all other teams at the tournament.

"I'd be totally pleased if they could manage to win that again, but I don't know if it's even possible to receive it two years in a row," said Rolfes.

Despite the daunting competition, Rolfes is positive about her group of five seniors, who were among the 23 WHS students--the most ever involved in the local program to date--participating in Knowledge Bowl this year.

"They have just as good a chance as any other team going," said Rolfes of her team at the upcoming state meet. "They're a smart bunch of young men who work very well together and know each other's strengths.

"They know who's best in math, geography or history, and they listen to each other very well," she continued. They've formed a bond over the years, and it works for them. They do well respecting each other's differences and building on each other's strengths."

Hayenga, for instance, identifies himself as one of the team's math specialists.

"Math is definitely my strongest area of knowledge--it's always been my favorite subject--and after that, probably a little science, a little literature, some mythology," listed Hayenga. "That's why our team has been so successful, though--we're well-rounded over the vast area of subjects that Knowledge Bowl tests.

"At least one person on our team is very good at each subject, and when certain questions come up, we automatically lean toward the person we view as the specialist in that area."

Burns, Hayenga, Landwehr and Moore have all been Knowledge Bowl participants since their freshman year; Pedersen joined forces with them as a junior.

As sophomores, Landwehr and Moore were part of a short-handed three-person team, with then-senior Isaac Wass, and qualified for the state Knowledge Bowl meet by virtue of a third-place Region 8 finish, so they return to state with plenty of experience.

"I'm very happy that we're going back, but I'm sad it's the last time for this particular group," expressed Rolfes. "It's like when any senior graduates--they have to fly with their own little wings."

Rolfes explained that, after an opening night banquet at the state meet, the teams sit for the written round of Knowledge Bowl testing, which lasts about an hour.

"During the written round, all five team members can work together," she noted. "In the five oral rounds, only four people compete at a time, so one has to sit out. If you happen to sit out the wrong person--say you get a lot of math questions and you sat out your math specialist for that round--it can come back to bite you, but that's part of the game."

WHS Principal Paul Karelis has faith the local Knowledge Bowl team will put their heads together for this final competition of their high school careers.

"These kids have represented our school with the utmost ability they could put out there," endorsed Karelis. "At the rate they're going, I hope they place well at the state level. They've worked very hard, and the school's behind them; we're proud of them."

And Rolfes is excited about the team's state opportunity as well.

"I'm looking forward to seeing them compete," she confirmed. "They've been wonderful leaders to our other school Knowledge Bowl teams all season, too, and given them good pointers--how to answer questions, how to better prepare for the written tests--they were great teachers and have helped out immensely.

"This is their last hurrah, and it will be wonderful to watch them compete."