From left, Knowledge Bowl participants Matt Dietz, Alex Lien, Annaliese Johnson and Karen Sass placed second at regional competition and are going to state. (Chatfield News photo courtesy photo)
From left, Knowledge Bowl participants Matt Dietz, Alex Lien, Annaliese Johnson and Karen Sass placed second at regional competition and are going to state. (Chatfield News photo courtesy photo)
Four members of Chatfield High School's Knowledge Bowl team will be heading to state this month.

They run the gamut and enjoy the obscurity. They know it, too.

Chatfield High School Knowledge Bowl adviser Janet Bren, speak of the interrogation filled with obscure questions to which the school's Knowledge Bowl team members willingly subject themselves.

"These questions they're dealing with run the gamut of every subject and the questions are extremely difficult. I'm guessing the average person wouldn't know 95 percent of the answers."

"It can be real estate, writers, factorials, archaic languages, literary psychology, complex number operations, chemical compounds...."

The kids meet once a week on Thursday before school from 7:20 to 8 a.m. They have questions from the previous year's competitions and they go through the questions.

According to the Southeast Service Cooperative (SSC) website, the organization through which Knowledge Bowl is sponsored, "The Minnesota Service Cooperative Knowledge Bowl competitions are interdisciplinary academic contests for students.

"The Senior High Knowledge Bowl is for students in grades 9-12. During the contest, teams of students compete in written and oral rounds by answering questions related to all areas of learning, typical of secondary educational programs. Questions test students' recall, problem solving and critical thinking skills.

"This competition provides a format for student growth centered around academics. Teams consist of five students, five competing in the written round and four competing in each oral round.

"Teams compete in round robin and sub-regional, and the top 12 teams from each tier advance to regionals. Finally, the top three teams from Tier A and top 2 teams from Tier AA advance to the State."

This year's team, four of whom are going to state competition following earning second place at regional competition two weeks ago, includes senior Karen Sass, junior Annaliese Johnson, sophomores Matt Dietz, Alex Lien, Morgan Henry and Tim Hawkins and freshman Levi Roline.

They voluntarily get out of bed early each Thursday morning to quiz and query one another on bits of trivia that would, as Bren noted, confound the average person.

Some of the questions the competitors must answer are:

• "In the year 360, the Picts and Scots crossed what wall to attack Roman forces in Great Britain?"

• "What is the sixth root of 64?"

• "In the early 14th century, what people settled the uninhabited island in Lake Texcoco?"

Seriously, those are some questions. And in true competition, they have only 15 seconds to answer each after ringing their bell, with allowing pencil and paper to work out math problems as the only concession being made.

"They have a written round and that's timed. They have to complete all the questions. That's scored and the points that they earn on that are added onto their scores in the oral rounds," explained Bren.

"Usually, three teams compete in the oral rounds - there are three teams in one room and it's rather tense. They get the questions, but they're not given the topic before they're given the questions."

She related how the team fared when attending sub-section competition. First, they competed within the conference, had two meets with four teams; traveled to Southeast Service Cooperative and competed with teams from all over southeast Minnesota; and when sub-sections were held at Rochester Community and Technical College's Heinz Center, they were up against 49 teams.

The Chatfield students needed to place in the top 12 to go to regional competition. The whole Knowledge Bowl team competed. When they went up to sub-sections, they split into two teams.

Karen, Annaliese, Matt and Alex placed well enough that they went to regional competition. They got second at regional competition, so they'll go to the state meet at Cragun's Resort in Brainerd on April 12 and 13.

Bren added, "The five teams that will represent the southeast Minnesota region at state include three A schools - Chatfield, Dover-Eyota and Houston, and two AA schools, Northfield and Rochester Mayo."

Bren has high hopes for her team when the quartet advances to state in Brainerd this month. "For me, it's fun to see them do so well. This is a great group of kids, very dedicated. They show up every Thursday for practice. It's also very impressive, the number of answers they come up with. They surprise me all the time with the amount of knowledge they've retained.

"They're great competitors, but they also know not to take it so seriously that they can't have fun with it...they can enjoy themselves."

She concluded, "I think they're very excited to be going to state, and I think it's a great accomplishment for them. I think they're very well deserving of this."