One of Chatfield High School's Knowledge Bowl teams will attend the state tournament in Brainerd, Minn., this coming weekend. In front, from left, are Annaliese Johnson, Morgan Henry and Bailey Hilgren. In back are Alex Lien, Justin Friedrich, Noah Grant, Tim Hawkins, Matt Dietz, Levi Roline and Logan Little.
One of Chatfield High School's Knowledge Bowl teams will attend the state tournament in Brainerd, Minn., this coming weekend. In front, from left, are Annaliese Johnson, Morgan Henry and Bailey Hilgren. In back are Alex Lien, Justin Friedrich, Noah Grant, Tim Hawkins, Matt Dietz, Levi Roline and Logan Little.
They want to be the lucky buzzers.

"You have to know a lot of information, but there's a lot of luck involved since you have to hit the buzzer and answer first," said Janet Bren, adviser of the state-bound Chatfield High School Knowledge Bowl team.

Several of its members will show off their smarts at the state competition at Cragun's Resort in Brainerd on April 11 and 12 as one of five teams from the region - including Chatfield, Albert Lea, Fillmore Central, Rochester Mayo and Winona - going to the button after competing in subsections at Rochester Community and Technical College and at sections at the Southeast Service Cooperative (SSC) in Rochester.

The SSC coordinates Knowledge Bowl in area high schools, making it possible for students to prove that they know the answer to obscure questions such as "Where is Lake Texcoco?" and "What is the square root of the sum of pi times 47, divided by 96?"

This year's team is comprised of Annaliese Johnson, Morgan Henry, Bailey Hilgren, Alex Lien, Justin Friedrich, Noah Grant, Tim Hawkins, Matt Dietz, Levi Roline and Logan Little.

"The team comes together in November, and we usually practice in the morning once a week before school," Bren explained. "Most of the kids are returning, except Bailey Hilgren, who's a senior and is new to the team. We've got a powerhouse on the team with Annaliese Johnson, who's a National Merit Scholar finalist. Not too many teams have one of those sitting on their side, and we're fortunate here."

Competitions are based on students' knowledge, of course, but also on their timing and understanding of one another's skills. Bren observed that since most of the students have spent two to three years competing together, they're ready to take on another team in tournaments anytime, anywhere.

"They really work well together. They've had lots of practice, and they all kind of know what their strengths are, who to look to when a question comes up," she said. "They definitely look to Bailey Hilgren for any dental questions because her mom's in dentistry. I think Bailey's strong suit is biology, and Matt Dietz and Annaliese Johnson really focus on math, Alex is into anything history - such as ancient Rome, and they're all pretty well versed in everything. Levi, Alex, Matt and Annaliese have been doing this for quite a few years and usually know where the question is going once it's asked."

Tournament play begins with a written round that establishes teams' rank, and the top three teams are sent to compete in rooms where the questions posed by the moderator vary in difficulty.

"If you're in the top room, you get extra points for competing against the tougher competition, and if you're in the easier room, you might be able to earn a large number of points. We went five rounds at the regional, and it's five rounds at the state competition."

The team is very excited to be able to compete at Cragun's Resort. "It's a great venue, and there's a very formal banquet planned in the beautiful dining room there - the kids will get to dress up in ties and have good food," Bren said. "It's fun for them. I guess our written round is going to be after the banquet, and the next morning, we'll start the oral rounds. There are three before lunch and two after. They placed second at regions behind Fillmore Central, and I guess the kids want to go after Fillmore Central this time. It depends on who's in which room and how many points they get."

Anticipating the state meet hasn't rattled the students' nerves yet. "I think they're pretty confident. They pretty much planned on going back to state. It was their goal, and they've met it," Bren concluded. "The only time they get a little nervous is when they're going into a competition when they're only one or two points behind and need to come out on top. They're confident, and they should be. It's a bright group of kids."