Knowledge bowl

From left, Prior Lake High School students Cole Burnett, Matthew Peterburs, Braden Bizal, Cole Schlottman and Carter Mong won the Minnesota Knowledge Bowl in Brainerd in April.

A Prior Lake High School team of students for the first time has won the statewide Knowledge Bowl academic competition.

Seniors Braden Bizal, Carter Mong, Matthew Peterburs and Cole Schlottman and team alternate and sophomore Cole Burnett beat 23 other teams in Brainerd on April 11, including last year’s champion in the final round.

Hundreds of teams around the state take part the competition’s different levels, according to organizers in the Minnesota Service Cooperatives. They include a written test round and several spoken rounds of questions on a wide range of subjects, roughly similar to the quiz show Jeopardy! but with teams instead of individuals.

“It’s all about teamwork and coming up with answers out of nowhere by working it out together,” Schlottman said. Another key skill: hitting that buzzer before the other team does while also having the answer ready.

The team set its sights on Sartell-St. Stephen School District, last year’s champion ahead of Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools’ ninth place. This year went differently, with the two districts trading second and first place throughout the competition before Prior Lake-Savage triumphed in the end.

“We were nervous, we were sweating,” Bizal said with a laugh, calling the win one of his biggest accomplishments.

Prior Lake High School’s multiple Knowledge Bowl teams practice four or five times a week, said Brian Olsen, science teacher and team head coach. Bizal and the others made up the varsity team.

Olsen said he put together the teams after testing participants for their weakest subjects, pushing them to improve and lining up their strengths. The school has taken part in almost every state competition in the last two decades.

Peterburs said the state competition was an exciting but somewhat sad feat: Competitions like this are basically done for the year, and most of the team is graduating. But he and the others said they hope to keep the habit going in college.

Community editor

Dan Holtmeyer is the community editor for the Prior Lake and Savage papers. He grew up in Nebraska and worked as a journalist in Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas before coming to Minnesota in 2018.

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