The Chatfield High School history students were very successful at the regional History Day competition held Saturday, April 6. Participants were, in front, from left, Logan Little, Cole Wellman and Haley Woltz. In the second row are Caitlin Hansen, Mary Simpson, Abby Hopp, Karen Gomez, Janessa Erding and Alli Hanson. In the third row are Luke Isensee, Bailey Hilgren, Dalton Lundy, Levi Roline and Kayla Woltz.
The Chatfield High School history students were very successful at the regional History Day competition held Saturday, April 6. Participants were, in front, from left, Logan Little, Cole Wellman and Haley Woltz. In the second row are Caitlin Hansen, Mary Simpson, Abby Hopp, Karen Gomez, Janessa Erding and Alli Hanson. In the third row are Luke Isensee, Bailey Hilgren, Dalton Lundy, Levi Roline and Kayla Woltz.
Their turning points had historic brass, with a side of fries and a last stand.

Sixteen Chatfield High School students in ninth through 12th grades took their "Turning Points in History" themed projects to the regional History Day competition at Winona State University on Saturday, April 6. Of those projects, 14 are proudly proceeding to state competition at the University of Minnesota on May 4.

According to Chatfield High School history instructor Tom Hilgren, who quoted the History Day website, "History Day is a regional, state and national competition which requires students to conduct historical research on a theme in history. Students compete in junior, or grades six through eight, and senior, or ninth through 12th grade divisions, as well as in categories of exhibits, media and documentaries, papers, websites and performance. This is the 19th year Chatfield has competed in the History Day competition."

Advancing to the state competition, earning the accolades of the History Day judges, were seniors Mary Simpson and Caitlin Hansen's group exhibit, "Raising the Brass Ceiling: Women in Orchestras;" seniors Bailey Hilgren and Luke Isensee's group documentary; senior Kayla Woltz and sophomore Haley Woltz's group documentary on Custer's Last Stand; sophomores Levi Roline, Cole Wellman and Logan Little's individual documentaries; sophomores Karen Gomez and Janessa Erding's group performance entitled "White Castle," concerning how White Castle came to be a nationwide fast food restaurant; Dalton Lundy's individual performance, and freshmen Allie Hansen and Abby Hopp's individual exhibits.

Hilgren added that Danielle Wright and Aleksie Waadevig's group exhibit received honorable mention, and that Andrew Gathje's individual website project - the largest and most difficult category in which to move on - received excellent comments from the judges. However, it was not selected as one of the 12 to advance.

He pointed out, "Chatfield returns several students with experience in the History Day program."

Caitlin Hansen finished seventh in the nation in 2012.

Bailey Hilgren was the 2010 state champion in senior individual documentary and finished in 10th place nationally, finished third at state in 2011, was a state champion with Merissa Wellman in 2009, a 2008 second place finisher at state and a 2007 state finalist.

Mary Simpson was a state finalist with Kayla Woltz in 2011 and again in 2012, as well as with with Merissa Wellman in 2010.

Karen Gomez and Janessa Erding were state finalists in 2012, as was Cole Wellman and Levi Roline was a state finalist in 2011.

Students spend "nearly 40 to 50 hours" preparing their projects for the regional competition and make further changes to them if they are chosen to compete at state. Hilgren's students certainly don't question his authority when he advises them to pursue a particular topic or make changes to a project.

Karen Gomez stated, "What Mr. Hilgren says, you just do it."

Caitlin Hansen agreed, "He has really good experience. We believe and trust in him, trust his judgment, take his constructive criticism and put it to work."

Janessa Erding observed, "If you want to go on, you should probably do what he says."

This year's regional competition was postponed by numerous beginning-of-the-week snowstorms that buried parts of southeastern Minnesota, and the rescheduled competition took place without some students' group project partners. Some were on the senior class trip or in sports tournaments. However, the students who did proceed to regional History Day weren't too daunted by the task of presenting their projects.

Though those who had the extra time to study scripts for performances appreciated it, those who had group projects admitted that it would have made standing before the judges easier if they'd known what questions to answer and which ones their partner would have had to answer.

Haley Woltz's sister, Kayla, was on the senior class trip, so she was on her own. "It would have been nice to have a partner. Kayla was upset because she was more in charge of our project. Both judges I had had just graduated from college and never asked anything about the project itself...they just asked how I chose it."

Gomez concurred, "You can't really know what the judges are going to ask. Some judges are friendly and want to talk about your project."

National competition veteran Caitlyn added, "It turned out that the guy I had was in the music field. I was actually really nervous because Mary wasn't along to answer questions about her part of the project. I didn't think about last year - it's a group project this year, so I had to rely on my partner. I thought, 'New year, new slate'."

No matter the obstacles, the students were rewarded with positive results. Logan Little admitted he was relieved and happy to be moving on. "I knew it was going to be a lot more work, but I'm pretty confident about my project," he said. "Since it's a documentary, I didn't have to present anything, but the only way to come up with any changes to it would be to make a whole new documentary."

Haley and Caitlin expressed their "complete relief and excitement" at being promoted to state. Caitlin related, "It's bittersweet that you made it, that it's done, that you're going on, but that means you're going to be nervous all over again."

Janessa noted that taking a project to competition at History Day is an experience and Caitlyn and Karen pointed out it is great to see how much work one puts into a project and to find success. Once at the state competition, the girls enjoy looking around and seeing how much everybody else puts into their projects as well. It is then that a student realizes that the effort invested has produced a comparable and fitting project.

Caitlin concluded, "It's the teamwork. If you're doing an individual project, or if you have a partner, you have everybody's support because you're the 'History Day' kids."