Digital Scrapbook: ROCORI Knowledge Bowl

From 1998-2002 I taught at ROCORI High School in Cold Spring, MN. During that time I had the privilege of teaching many sections of Algebra I and also of coaching the Knowledge Bowl team. The first year I coached the team, I got a grand total of 5 students to join. The second year, I was teaching a Graphing Calculator class (yep....a Graphing Calculator class) and recruited heavily. I think I ended up with about 10-15 students. The last two years were much more consistent around 15-20 students.

Those last two years, we also got good. The 2000/2001 team had a close call in the Subregion Tournament, finishing just a couple points out of getting into the Regionals. The 2001/2002 team won almost every meet we entered and dominated the Subregion and Region Tournaments. That team of Rachel, Bob, Matt, and Evan finished 5th in the State Tournament!

It was during these last couple years that I also realized that the Cold Spring Record, the local newspaper, would pretty much print anything sent into them. Here are some of the "articles" I wrote for the Record on the Knowledge Bowl's behalf.

Knowledge Bowl Team Ends Regular Season

The ROCRORI High School Knowledge Bowl team ended its regular season March 17 with a 4th place finish at the Cambridge Invitational. ROCORI teams also chalked up a 4th place finish at the Buffalo Tournament, a 3rd place finish at North Branch, and 2nd place finishes at each of the Apollo, Foley, and Tech tournaments. They also earned invitations to two of the more prestigious tournaments in the state, Chaska (17th place) and Concordia (5th place).

Other than the Chaska meet, which invited 50 teams this year, most meets have about 30 to 35 teams vying for the coveted title of tournament champion. Teams start out the day with a grueling 60 question written round and based on their score are placed into rooms for a 45 question oral round. In the oral round, three teams compete Jeopardy style, buzzing in with a pressure sensitive green strip. After the smoke clears and the round is declared over, teams reenergize with donuts and juice while the scores are reticulated. Then they are again sent out to the trenches.

After a total of four oral rounds, winners are lauded, prizes are bestowed, and the mentally weary teams clamor to their respected buses. However, their fatigue is short lived, when scant seconds after boarding the "yellow carriage",the cries of, "Are we stopping somewhere to eat?" resounds up its, sacred aisle.

ROCORI High School Knowledge Bowl members this year include, Kayla Wenker, David Raw, Amanda Hemmesch, Josie Ziegler, Evan Creed, Matt Bonham, Rachel Rollins, Bob Willenbring, Eric Patton, Anna Grelson, Darren Schlangen, Briana Theis, Laura Januszewski, and a plethora of sophomores. They have dutifully given up the majority of their Saturdays since January,  sometimes rising before the sun, to compete in the hallowed tradition that is Knowledge Bowl. Their season climaxes Thursday April 4, when they pit their wits against 23 other teams in, the Class AA Subregional Tournament.

ROCORI Knowledge Bowl (c.2001ish)

I didn't write this one, but it did appear in the St. Cloud Times...

Knowledge Bowl teams from a number of local schools earned top spots at a meet Jan. 19 at Apollo High School. 

Among 36 varsity teams, the following five teams earned top honors: Rocori High School's Team 1, 103 points; Apollo's Team 1, 100 points; Chisago Lake High School's Team 2, 96 points; Becker High School's Team 1, 92 points; and Holdingford High School's Team 1, 86 points.

In the junior varsity competition among 19 teams, the following five teams took top spots: North Branch Team A, 86 points; Monticello Team A, 76 points; St. John's Preparatory School; 72 points; Technical School, 71 points; Monticello Team B, 71 points.

Earlier this month Knowledge Bowl teams from five area high schools earned top spots in a field of 45 teams at a meet in Sartell. Apollo High School's Team 2 took the top spot with 114 points. ROCORI High School's Team 1 earned 108 points and second place. Becker High School's Team 1 followed with 101 points; Apollo Team 3 earned 99 points; and Eden Valley-Watkins High School Team 1 earned 96 points.

This article was the first mention of the Think Tank

ROCORI Knowledge Bowl Places 3rd

Driving in Cloquet without brakes was the least of the ROCORI Knowledge Bowl team's worries recently. Facing competition like St. Thomas Academy (last year's state runner-up), Hibbing (last year's state champion), Chaska (last year's 3rd place team), and 56 other perennial state powers was much more nerve-wracking than careening off the interstate. Their concerns, however, proved to be unfounded as ROCORI's top team opened the season with an unprecedented 3rd place finish.

Inspired by past Knowledge Bowl titans Matt Baker, Nicole Januszewski, Steve Eickhoff, and Craig Phillips, to name a few, ROCORl pulled off their best December finish in team history. Setting this historic mark were the team of Matt Bonham, Evan Creed, Rachel Rollins, and Bob Willenbring. Future stars Alex Cruze, Nicole Feldhege, Eric Patton, Brian Schloeder, and Dan Westerhaus showed promise by winning their room twice in this competitive field. Coach Zieffler attributes the weekend's success to intense practices and the strategical meeting held the night prior to the meet in the private banquet hall at Duluth's local Embers. Coach Brewer said, "This impressive finish should ensure that we will receive the multi-million dollar, high-tech training facility we so richly deserve."

The ROCORI Knowledge Bowl team would like to dedicate this win to "The Think Tank", their rowdy fan base of friends and parents. They would especially like to thank "Think Tank" members Jason Koets, Linda Liebl, and Jane Wahlin. Think Tank president Jeff Mergen remarked, "This has to be the top rated extracurricular activity at ROCORI High School this year!" If you would like to join this zany group of fans, all you need to do is buy a pair of shades because this team's future is looking bright!

ROCORI Knowledge Bowl Team Takes 1st Place!

From left to right: Evan Creed, Bob Willenbring, Matt Bonham (holding the trophy), and Rachel Rollins.

It is said that good things come to those who wait. On Saturday, January 19, after 13 years of waiting, the ROCORI High School Knowledge Bowl team got a first place trophy to call its very own. Eclipsing 35 other teams at the Apollo Invitational, ROCORI looked fantastic throughout the day's competition.

"Always a bridesmaid, never a bride" seemed to be ROCORI's motto to this point. Heading into Saturday's contest, ROCORI had accumulated 3 second place and 4 third place trophies, but never the much sought after first place trophy. That all changed when the team of Matt Bonham, Evan Creed, Rachel Rollins, and Bob Willenbring combined their arcane knowledge and blazing fast buzzer speed to dominate at the Apollo meet. The team was in second place much of, the day and trailed by two points heading into the final oral round. Outscoring the leading team by five points, ROCORI emerged from the round victorious.

The other two ROCORI teams at the meet also had a good day. The second varsity team flirted with the top ten before a tough last round dropped them into 24th place. ROCORI also competed in the JV contest, placing 18th. Coach Zieffler remarked, "Overall, I'd say we had a great day, We met many of our goals, The top team stayed in double.digits in every round, something that they have not been able to do in the past, and the two other teams also did well despite missing key members on Saturday.

ROCORI Knowledge Bowl Fan Club president Jeff Mergen in response to the victory just smiled, put on his shades and gave the thumbs up.

This article was written to see if the Record would actually publish it. They did! I owe an apology to Nellie Mergen (Jeff's wife) for this one. She was so embarrassed by Jeff's picture. Jeff and I cracked up for weeks after this was published.

Think Tank President interviews for the Record

There are many people who work behind the scenes to contribute to a team's success. One of those people for the ROCORJ Knowledge Bowl team is Fan Club President Jeff Mergen. After numerous requests, The Think Tank President finally consented to an exclusive interview for the Cold Spring Record. Here are his pearls of wisdom on the current winning streak put up by the Knowledge BowI team.

Early in the season you made a prediction that the Knowledge Bowl team could be the best bet for postseason success at ROCORI this year. What are your current predictions for the remainder of the season?

I stand with that prediction. They are the top ranked extra-curricular team at ROCORI right now.

In the past 3 years the Knowledge Bowl's average score and standard deviation per meet were 83.8 and 14.37 respectively. This year the average meet score has risen to 98.25 and the standard deviation has fallen to 9.89. Could you comment on this?

That's a definite improvement! It could be due to the influence of Marty Robbins.

It is said that the road to a championship goes through the weight room. As the Knowledge Bowl team's "strength" trainer (Mergen teaches them all in AP Calculus) as well as fan club president, do you have any insight into the training they engage in?

They have something called a mental weight training program...something like mental isometrics.

Composer John Cage said, "Fame is of no importance." Having been quoted in two articles on the Knowledge Bowl team, how are you dealing with your new found fame?

He's a liar. He's just wrong. Fame is what you make it...I'm famous in my own mind.

How does a person become a member of the Knowledge Bowl Fan Club?

Come see me. I'll give you an application to membership and an "AP" History exam. Any score over 90% gets in.

If the Knowledge Bowl team were to take on a team composed of faculty members who would walk away victorious?

Faculty usually won in the past, but of course the Knowledge Bowl teams of the past had nowhere near the average and standard deviation they do now.

The "Calculus and Analytic Geometry" book by Thomas and Finney claims that, "with, Calculus we can do better." Having all 4 of the Knowledge Bowl team's top members in calculus, can you comment on that quotation?

Idealism increases in direct proportion to one's distance from the problem.

The same calculus book claimed that, "if you were stranded on a desert island and could take only one formula with you, the equation

might well be your choice." What formula would you take?

L'Hopital's Rule!!

One last question. A College of St. Benedict's student posted a comment on the St. Cloud Times' web site in response to their article on the Knowledge Bowl team that read, "I heard Gern Blanston is the coach of this team." Could you comment on that?

I quote Mark Twain when I say, "It's better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt."

That concludes our foray with ROCORl Knowledge Bowl Fan Club President Jeff Mergen. As a side note, the ROCORI Knowledge Bowl team won both the Buffalo tournament and the Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa (BBE) tournament. Their second team aleo placed in the top 10 at BBE.


Digitial Scrapbook II: Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth

This ditty appeared in the Apollo High School newspaper around 1989 or so. I think I was one of the two freshmen on the team. That was the same year that one of the senior girls asked me out on a date and we went to the Apollo/Tech hockey game (Go Eagles!). During the second intermission she kissed me and I panicked. What was I thinking???

Math League enjoying successful season
By Monique Coleman
Staff Writer

    On Nov. 14, Apollo's Math League members took first place in competition for the first time since Math League competition was started three years ago. This first meet of the season, held at Apollo, included the nine teams in the Central Minnesota Math League: Apollo, Brainerd, Cathedral, Eden Valley-Watkins, Little Falls, Rocori, St. John's' prep., Sartell, and Tech.
    After the second meet of this year's season, the team is currently ranked second. For the last two years the Math League team has never been ranked higher than second place in the area.
    Some readers may wonder what Math League is all about. According to advisers Ray Maresh and Scott MacLeod, it gives talented math students a chance for recognition along with the development of their math skills.
    There are some expectations, however. Members are expected to practice once or twice a week with the team or on their own. Members must also learn to work as a team.
    Each member is committed to a particular area of mathematics and takes two of the four twelve-minute tests at each meet. Team members must also
take the twenty minute team test. The four basic test divisions are: algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and advanced topics.
    At practices, members go over tests from previous years since the same topics are generally given year after year. They also ask questions concerning problems with different mathematical theory applications. During practices, the advisers generally offer the students directions in which way they might want to practice.
    "This is not a teaching class," Ray Maresh said. "We can't get up in front of the students and give a lecture. Everything is so general."
    During the meets, the advisers of the different schools are busy preparing their students, correcting the tests, or timing them. "
    Presently there are seventeen members of Apollo's team: five seniors, six juniors, four sophomores, and two freshmen.
    "The students in Math League are the finest at Apollo. They are all taking the time to do well and represent the school," MacLeod said.
    When asked what they wanted to accomplish this year, both advisers replied that they wanted the students to have fun, learn something, and maybe go to state competition.
    The best part about Math League, according to the advisers, is watching students being recognized for their achievements and seeing them excited about mathematics.

This picture appeared in the St. Cloud Times when I was in the fourth grade. It must have been ~1984ish?! It was taken at the Central Minnesota Chess Championships. I finished third in the Queen division. Check out the watch...it was a transformers watch that transformed into both a robot and a jet plane. (Note: For those of you who might not remember 'watches'; they were mini-clocks that people wore on their wrists to tell time. Think Flavor Flav but the clock is small and worn on your wrist.) (Note to the Note: For those of you too old to know Flavor Flav, he was an member of Public Enemy–an influential hip-hop group in the late 80s early 90s–think Dr. Suess + Gordon Lightfoot + Rhythm.)

This last photo is of my piano teacher, the esteemed Paul Wirth. His wife Cathy taught us music at Westsood Elementary School. (Do you remember that monster record....we were vampires, werewolves, etc before they were hip!) My first year of piano lessons took place at the St. Cloud Music School and I was under the tutelage of Barbara Meyer. After that Paul agreed to take me on and I worked with him for five additional years. Fairness in Disclosure Act requires that I reveal this must have felt like five decades to him and I made the progress of about 1-2 years at best. There was one point where he realized I would never be any good at the piano so he taught me how to read guitar chords and translate them to piano notes. I got pretty good at that.

One of the things I hated about piano lessons were the required recitals and musicales. Musicales were this once-a-month thing on a Sunday where we went and heard other students play and you got to play for other students. After each performance you would critique said piece played. There were about 7-8 characteristics that I knew, so that was what I said. It would go something like this,

Paul: Andy. What did you think?
Andy: I liked when she transitioned to pianissimo after she played for a bit.
Paul: Great. Ann what about you. What did you think?
Ann: I think she played with flourish. She connected with the piano. I particularly liked when she transitioned back to fortissimo at the beginning of the third movement. I also liked the timbre. It eleicited a dreamlike response in the audience. Did I note a Renaissance influence in what was otherwise a spectacularly obvious Baroque motif in the last several phrases of the cadenza?

On a complete side note, the Musicales I had to go to included Chris Weldon (piano playing machine...attended Julliard...taught at the San Francisco Conservatory...etc.), Ann Duhamel (has a Master's Degree and is either done or almost done with her Ph. D in piano performance), and about 5 other really good piano players. It was like that game on Sesame Street...Which one is not like the others?

Hindsight, being much more like 20/20...maybe even 20/10, I can say that Paul taught me an awful lot. So, although I am roughly 20 years too late, Thank You Paul!


Digital Scrapbook

I have been meaning to digitize some of my scrapbook pics and newspaper clippings for a long time. Well, I started today. Now I post them and everyone is entertained.

This sidebar appeared in the St. Cloud Times circa 2001. It was an interview that took place at the YMCA while I was on lunch break. Each week they profiled "interesting" people to meet in the city.

Age: 26
Hometown: St.Cloud
Faumily: Mother, Margaret; dad, Fredrick; sister, Sandra, 24.
Occupation: Mathematics teacher at Rocori High School, part-time St. Cloud YMCA employee during the summer.
Which university did you attend? I started out at Dakota State, but I graduated from St. Cloud State.
What grade do you teach? I have been teaching ninth- through 12th graders for the past two years. Before that, I taught at St. Cloud State University for three years as a teacher's assistant.
What are your hobbies? I enjoy reading, playing and coaching soccer. I am coaching a summer team right now, and in the fall I coach the girls' soccer team at St. John's Prep.
Do your students like you? Yeah, probably most of them, but some don't.
What do you like about St. Cloud? Right now I’ve got a job here and that’s what I like...I like the way it’s expanding, and I like working with the kids in the high school and on the teams I coach. It’s a nice community to live in.
What part of the United States do you like the most? I like the east coast because it is pretty and historic. However I like the Midwest as far as living because the people are much nicer and I enjoy the seasons.
If you could change one thing about St. Cloud, what would it be? There doesn’t seem to be many places to meet people.This is a very family-oriented town, which is good, but they need more things for single people.
If you could go on any TV game show,which one would it be? It would probably be ‘Jeopardy’ because they have good trivia questions, or ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire?’ because I think I’d clean up with that show
What are your plans? I am going to go back to graduate school this fall to get my Ph.D. and eventually teach math and history at the college level.

This article appeared in the Apollo High School newspaper circa 1991/1992 about the 50 consecutive hour trivia marathon that we compete in. The writer, Dan Coda, was a good friend and also played on our team.

Trivia addicts tackle tough questions in KVSC's competition

By Daniel Coda
Staff Writer

    St. Cloud State University's campus radio station, KVSC, held their annual "trivia blizzard weekend" on the weekend of Feb. 7-9. This year the theme was the Magical Trivia Tour.
    The trivia blizzard consists of 50 straight hours of trivia questions. Each hour eight to ten questions are asked, and each team calls in and tries to get the correct answer. Each question is given points based on the difficulty of that particular question. This year 30 teams participated, including one from Apollo High School.
    Senior Andy Zieffler hosted the trivia team at his house for the third year running. Zieffler has participated in the trivia weekend for four years now. When asked why he did it he replied," I did it for Trivia Man." Zieffler explained that "Trivia Man had been shot after four years of supreme rulership of trivia." 
    Each team that enters has to pay a registration fee and also has to come up with a name. Zieffler has played under the team names: Hindu Quaker Sophomore Guys, Platypuschainsawcadavers, Oblong Gontal Cosmic Dust, and this year's team was called Mental Debris. 
    Hindu Quaker Sophomore Guys received an award for the most creative name. This year the team did not receive an award, but they did place 18th out of the 30 teams. Someone still owes Mental Debris a beer lamp.


Congratulations Rob!!!

My friend Rob just got the first copy of his recently released book.

It looks pretty. And the cover picture is so tranquil. I can't wait to get a copy. You can pre-order it on Amazon.


Justin Bieber Says...

Learn statistics. And don't do drugs or you might
think my music is good. Tragedy!



Buddy Holly said it best..."I'm just sitting here, reminiscing." I finally checked Facebook and got caught up on everyone's lives (Hooray internet stalking...errr..catching up!) The posts on the group, St. Cloud Apollo High School Concert Choir 1970-1999- the Bob Sieving years, got me reminiscing about high school choir. Bob Sieving was the choir director at Apollo High School and was simply amazing. He got more students involved in music than anyone I know. He also somehow managed to get high school students to perform at levels that I don't believe to this day. I sang with his choirs from 1989-1992. He also taught music theory. I learned more in Bob's music theory course than I did when I took it in college.

Here are two tunes from that era. The first is from Handel's Messiah. We performed this at St. Mary's Cathedral in St. Cloud, MN circa 1991.

The second is from an MEA Mid-Winter Concert. The pianist in the second tune is my friend Chris Weldon (ping pong player and Julliard grad). The best part of that recording is at the end of the song. Chris ended so strongly that the bench flew back. Listen for it!