Taking their knowledge to a new level at state

Ryan Martinka, Cullen Slette, Gavin Schaefer, Benton Groebner, and Sophie Berger (L-R) have pencils and paper at the ready as team Purple prepares for the written round. Activity leader Rob Bute said they will be retaining many of their members from this year’s run, including Groebner and Berger.

NEW ULM — In a historic run, New Ulm’s Knowledge Bowl teams Purple and Ivory finished first and second in the state competition.

The program’s previous best finish was a third, set last year. They have sent at least one team to state for nine years. In three of those years, they were able to send two. State competition consists of 15 schools, with three competitions based on school sizes. New Ulm is placed in 2AA, alongside similarly sized schools like Fairmont and St. Peter.

Social Studies Teacher and Instructional Coach Rob Bute said they had a lot of their kids from last year back, and were hoping to make another deep run. What he hadn’t anticipated was a second strong team forming as well.

“I was excited we had at least one team I thought that was going to be super strong coming back,” Bute said. “I had high expectations for them. I told them that and I think they wanted to do well, too. I was not expecting a second team to develop this year. That was a really cool thing that took place.”

New Ulm High School had 71 kids from grades 9-12 in their Knowledge Bowl program this year, spread out over 12 teams. Bute said this is by far more than anyone else in the region, and he was proud that kids feel comfortable joining a program like Knowledge Bowl.

New Ulm’s Ivory (right) and Purple (left) teams compete in the same room during their state competition. Members from both teams agreed that biology and chemistry questions are areas they need to improve on the most.

As for the secret to their success, Bute said they have developed a culture where students are comfortable being in Knowledge Bowl and with taking risks answering questions.

“I always say you can’t hit a home run if you don’t swing the bat,” Bute said. “The same way with Knowledge Bowl; you’re not going to do well if you don’t take shots at the questions. We have a culture of success and the kids expect to do well when they go to meets.”

Bute said the team’s biggest strengths were in social studies, geography, science, and math. He said English and grammar were some of their weak points.

First place Purple team member Benton Groebner said he knew greater things were possible after New Ulm finished third last year, but it didn’t sink in until halfway through the season that they had a pretty good shot at the title.

The road was not easy. Members from both Purple and Ivory teams agreed they faced stiff competition, especially from Kasson-Mantorville. Ivory member Alessandro Enamorado said while the experience was fun, it was also stressful.

Filling up a large lecture hall section, 71 students from 9-12 grades participated in Knowledge Bowl this season. Activity leader Rob Bute said this is one of the best participation numbers in the region.

“There were some parts where we would be [in a slump], he said. “In the third round, we had zero questions right by the 30th question. Lucas [Skoglund] dragged us out of the mud and we were stressing the whole time.”

Members from Purple and Ivory agreed that biology, chemistry, and current event questions were where they needed to improve the most.

While another trip to state would be appreciated, Bute said the biggest focus for students in Knowledge Bowl is to improve and have fun with it.

“I have expectations for the kids that they can continue to do well,” he said. “I never focus on the idea going to state is our main goal because it’s about having a lot of fun. It’s about trying to get better as a team and that’s the focus throughout the year.”


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