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'Beginning of nice tradition:' LP-A Knowledge Bowl to make eighth trip to state

LAKE PARK -- A long-standing streak at Lake Park-Audubon High School is about to get a little longer.

For the eighth year in a row, the LP-A Knowledge Bowl Team has earned a slot in the state tournament, which takes place this Thursday and Friday, April 15-16 at Cragun's Resort in Brainerd.

"This is the eighth consecutive year we've been able to earn our way to the state tournament," said Knowledge Bowl coach Laureen Svobodny. "That's the beginning of a nice tradition."

It's not a tradition that's easy to uphold, however. Svobodny said the students in Knowledge Bowl each year do their utmost to make sure the streak continues unblemished.

"The bar was set high several years ago, and these kids are determined to maintain that tradition," she said.

The Knowledge Bowl season starts in December, though practices get underway "well before that," Svobodny said.

She typically brings three teams of five students to each competition, rotating them to make sure everyone has a chance to experience a live meet.

But practices also count, and with 35 students participating in Knowledge Bowl this year, they were able to simulate the diversity of live competition more easily.

Just like athletic competition, the Knowledge Bowl season ends with subregion, region and state competitions. The team chosen for the subregion event must be the same team that competes at the regional and state level, Svobodny added.

Though only five students -- Megan Erickson, Mason Nelson, Jen Renner, Autumn Ricke and Sydney Schiffner -- made the state tournament roster, it was "a full team effort," Svobodny emphasized.

The Knowledge Bowl "starting five" was determined by their performance over the course of the season, as well as team chemistry and diversity of academic knowledge, she added.

"It's like any competition -- you want your best out there on the floor, or in this case, in the competition room," Svobodny said.

To prepare for the state event, Svobodny brought in past Knowledge Bowl participants, faculty and community members for a special practice during the Easter break. The "super team" of Knowledge Bowl alumni, faculty and community members took on the current state team.

"The faculty members enjoyed it, and the community members did too," she added.

Knowledge Bowl competition involves two phases -- written and oral. The three teams that perform the best in the written round advance to the top tier of the oral competition, with the remaining tiers of three teams each determined by their written round placement as well.

This year, the LP-A team was actually able to take first place in the Region 4 tournament, despite placing no higher than third in the subregion event.

"That was quite an accomplishment for them," Svobodny said.

Though the LP-A team has yet to place higher than third in the state tournament, getting there in the first place is a major accomplishment in itself, Svobodny said.

"It's not easy to get there," she said.

In fact, last year was a particularly difficult one. Despite earning a berth in the state tournament, the LP-A team was unable to compete because two of its starting members were also in FCCLA, which was holding its competition the same weekend.

"We gave our spot to a neighboring district -- Hawley was the next in line, so they went in our stead," Svobodny said. "It was a really tough decision. The two senior boys had been to the FCCLA nationals before -- there are no nationals for Knowledge Bowl."

It ended up being the right decision, as they returned to the national FCCLA competition for another year.

Thankfully, this year's team does not have a similar conflict.

"It's a joy to send our kids there (to the state tournament)," said Svobodny. "When you get to the state tournament, they take the kids and divide them into AA and A (categories) by population. Even in the A division, we're the smallest school there, except maybe for Wheaton."

Competing against teams from much larger schools, LP-A has still managed to place in the top six three times.

"I work with an awesome group of kids -- I'm very proud of them," Svobodny said.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454