By Tim Leeds
After years of trying to compete in the Montana Academic Challenge, Havre High students were victorious Wednesday in their first competition defeating Belt in the finals 360-230.
Havre won its first competition Wednesday morning at 10:30 against the Heart Butte team 350-110. In the semifinals match held at 12:45 p.m., Havre defeated the Sunburst team 280-230.
Matt Welch, Chris Barts, Jayson Nissen, Thea Maristuen and Tom Billingsley were the regular Havre team. John Boucher, Nikki Baltrusch, Mike Frey, Nichole Borst and Mario Pizzini were the team's alternate members. Pizzini took Welch's place during the 12:45 p.m. match.
"I have to give a real big congratulations to all the kids," team coach Carol Pleninger said. "All of the kids contributed. Each had an area of expertise. They did a great job, especially since we've never done this before."
Pleninger said the first match wasn't extremely competitive. The second match was pretty evenly matched, but Havre answered a few more questions in each round of the match. The finals match went back and forth, Pleninger said. Havre took an early lead, then Belt took the lead, then Havre regained it to win.
"Tom Billingsley went on fire," Pleninger said about the finals. "He answered eight questions in a row at the end and sealed it up for them."
The team will return to the challenge sometime in April for a championship tournament between the four preliminary winners. A second tournament is being held in Great Falls today, and tournaments occur in Glendive and Billings.
Havre will compete against today's Great Falls tournament winner in the championship, and the winner of that match will compete against the winner of a match between the winners of the Glendive and Billings tournaments.
Pleninger complimented all of the Havre team for their hard work preparing for the tournament.
"They've all been there every day for practice," she said. "All of them were qualified to compete there."
She said Pizzini was substituted in the semifinal round to let the team try some different competitive styles.
The Havre matches will be aired on KRTV-3 from Great Falls. The first match will air at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 5, the semifinal match at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 26, and the finals match at 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 4.