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Elk River High Knowledge Bowl Team Makes History at State

The Elk River High School Knowledge Bowl program made history earlier this month, placing 13th overall at the State AA Competition.


It was the first trip to a state meet – held at the Cragun’s Conference Center in Brainerd – for more than two decades, according to coach Troy McGowan.


“I didn’t really have record for it, so I had to go and look at some of the old trophies. It’s been since the 1990s, for sure,” he said with a smile.


The team of Jack Hipsag, Christian Kubicka, Bennett Jordan, Jack Milless and Sebastian Sandor was one of just 24 to make it to the State AA Meet – out of more than 900 teams statewide. Prior Lake took home the state championship, defeating Sartell-St. Stephen.


For the Elks, just getting to the meet was the start of something they hope is a new tradition for the program.


“It’s been a lot of hard work. We have some of the best teams in the entire state within our district/section [Central Region], so to get to state is really a bonus. The toughest competitions we have throughout the year are within our section, for sure. Sartell is just a great program,” Sandor said.


“Sartell is just a great program,” Jordan added.


The concept of Knowledge Bowl is team oriented – a literal exam begins the competition, with the team working together on 60 questions. The results then determine your room ranking as you head to the next round, which is an oral quiz.


There are multiple rounds of the oral quiz – with a about three teams per room – in a quiz bowl style format, buzzing in and solving the problem.


“Getting 10 out of 45 in an oral quiz round is pretty good, for example,” Jordan said. “It’s competitive. It gets really intense.”


The regular season pits schools against each other until the section meet, which is in March. Coaches then use those meets to find the best combination of teams, McGowan said.


“By the time state rolls in we’ve had a lot of competition, including the meet we host here with some of the other schools from around the state. Buffalo has a large one, as well. So there’s some recognition in the competition you’re up against.”


Jordan said he joined the Knowledge Bowl team after the ISD 728 started using in-school competitions at the middle school level.


“We won a few times when I was in middle school, and I was someone who contributed to those wins, so I liked the competition of it. And when I found out we had a competitive team here at Elk River, it was something I definitely wanted to do,” he said.


As for Sandor, it was a friend who brought him on board.


“She kind of explained the format to me, and it sounded like a challenge, but a lot of fun. I wasn’t disappointed,” he said.


The team will have much of its core returning for the 2019-2020 school year, which is good news for the program, McGowan said. Kids have a competitive streak to them, and they’re going to want to get friends who can make the program better into Knowledge Bowl now that they’ve accomplished one of their ultimate goals.


“The challenge now is to make it back,” Jordan said. “We hope we can just keep building on what we did this season.”


ISD 728 has three competitive Knowledge Bowl programs. The Zimmerman team is coached by Mr. James Doran, while the Rogers High team is led by Mr. Sam Okland.