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Bemidji High School Knowledge Bowl team heads to state for 4th year in a row

What president of the Russian Republic in 1991 declared an end to the U.S.S.R. and forced Mikhail Gorbachev's resignation?

The correct answer to this question would give a Knowledge Bowl team a much-needed point during a competition.

After placing in the top five schools at the regional contest in Thief River Falls March 14, the Bemidji High School Knowledge Bowl team will compete at the state meet April 7-8 at Cragun's Resort and Hotel on Gull Lake, Brainerd.

It is the fourth year in a row the team, coached by science teacher Jason Koester, has made an appearance at the state meet.Twenty students participated in Knowledge Bowl this year, but five students will compete at state. The five students are chosen based on their academic area of expertise, such as science, English, math or history.

Students participating on the state team are Kean Ahern, Ben Peterson, Kate Schulze, Levi Heath and Henry Curtis. Ahern and Peterson were name to the All Academic Team.

Koester called this year's team "exciting" and said he is looking forward to his team representing Bemidji at the state level.

Bemidji School District belongs to the Northwest Minnesota Service Cooperative, which coordinates the state's Knowledge Bowl.

Knowledge Bowl is an academic competition where high school teams answer questions in written and oral rounds. Questions range from all academic areas, ranging from geography to history to literature to science to math.

The written exam is a multiple-choice exam taken by each team as a group. At the state meet, teams must answer 60 questions in 50 minutes. The results from the written test are then used to rank the teams for the oral rounds.

In the oral rounds, there are three teams per room. A reader presents the questions and a person may buzz in as soon as he or she has an answer. If they miss a question, no points are deducted, but the other teams can then answer the question based on who buzzed in first.

The winner is the team with the most points at the end of the meet.

The real challenge, Koester said, is being the first person to buzz in an answer before another team.

According to Koester, this year's team is younger than past teams. Only one student on the entire 20-member BHS team has been to the state meet before.

The BHS Knowledge Bowl team had an outstanding season, placing first in five of its six regular-season meets. At the state meet, Koester said he hopes the team will rank in the top half of the 24 teams competing.

"It's a big challenge to go up against big-city schools like Chaska and private schools that can recruit students based on academics," Koester said. "The students are all very excited to go to state for the first time."

The BHS Knowledge Bowl team practices Tuesdays and Thursdays after school. Koester has a list of questions used during past competitions, which he uses to quiz students. Questions are rarely used twice, however.

When asked what he enjoys most about Knowledge Bowl, Koester said, "I like the fact that the competition can be for people who are not in sports, especially for those in larger schools."