By Tim Leeds
Ten Havre students set out for Great Falls this morning to be Havre High School's first representatives at The Montana Academic Challenge.
The students were scheduled to compete against a team from Heart Butte at 10:30 a.m. at The College of Great Falls in today's first round of competition.
Eight teams are scheduled to compete today. Semi-final rounds were scheduled for noon and 12:45 p.m., with a final's round scheduled at 1:30. Eight more teams are scheduled to compete tomorrow.
Today and tomorrow's winners will be invited back to compete in a championship round, Havre chemistry teacher Carol Pleninger said. Pleninger, along with Havre High teachers Diane Way, Gary Staudinger and John Ita, has helped the team prepare for the event. Pleninger accompanied the team to Great Falls for today's competition.
The teams must consist of five students from a single Montana high school or a consortium approved in advance. Each team must have one from each grade, and one at-large member from any grade. Alternate members may be substituted for any match , provided the school gives advance notice.
Havre's team consists of freshman Matt Welch, son of Tom and June Welch; sophomore Chris Barts, son of Michael and Kathy Barts; junior Jayson Nissen, son of Charles Nissen and Amy Booker; senior Thea Maristuen, daughter of Chris and Keith Maristuen; at-large representative Tom Billingsley, son of Owen and Margaret Billingsley; alternates senior John Boucher, son of Patty and Terry Boucher; junior Nikki Baltrusch, daughter of Greg and Shari Baltrusch; sophomore Mike Frey, son of Jim and Lynn Frey; freshman Mario Pizzini, son of Robert and Mary Pizzini; and senior Nichole Borst, daughter of Brett and Annette Borst.
Each match in the competition is broken into four segments: two "open" competitions in which both teams may answer the given questions, and two "timed" competitions, in which each team is given a period of time to answer as many questions and score as many points as possible.
Each team will be seated at a table with an electronic buzzer and light for each of the five team members. Any team member may "buzz" in and team members may confer on their answers. Only the previously selected team captain may give the team's answer to the host.
Once an answer is given, the host will determine whether it is correct or not and award points accordingly.
Pleninger said that a limited number of competitors are allowed to participate in the event. Havre High has tried for several years to compete, but the spaces have all been filled before this year. Teams seem to be invited back each year, she said, and she's optimistic that this year's opportunity will continue.
"Hopefully, we'll be able to field a team each year now that we're into the program," she said.
Havre didn't find out it had made it onto the program until a week and a half before the Christmas break, Pleninger said. The team was chosen by teacher recommendations instead of tryouts or trials due to the time constraints, but Pleninger said they may be able to use tryouts in the future.
The students have been coming in to practice for the event on their lunch hours, Pleninger said. The coaches have covered rules and practiced styles, as well as bombarding the students with as much trivia in the categories as possible.
"I think they've done a good job of preparing," she said. "They definitely seem excited about this."
The Challenge is sponsored by Central Montana Communications, Hill County Electric Cooperative, Mid-Rivers Telephone Cooperative, Range Telephone Cooperative, Glacier Electric Cooperative, Marias River Electric Cooperative, Northern Telephone Cooperative, Three Rivers Telephone Cooperative, and Triangle Telephone Cooperative.