Hillcrest Visits Capitol to Share Stories of Changed Lives

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Hillcrest Visits Capitol to Share Stories of Changed Lives

The school van started slowly at 5am last Friday. Journalism instructor Wayne Stender stopped in front of Hillcrest's main doors to meet five students. The van warmed as Hillcrest's main doors opened and the students descended the stairs. The ladies wore high heels and business attire, the young men were presentable, wearing a shirt-and-tie in their Sunday best. They were advancing to the State Capitol to learn how to communicate with representatives. Their mission Friday was to share the impact of private schools.

Hillcrest belongs to the Minnesota Independent School Forum (MISF). The Forum organizes political advocacy for private schools. The event on Friday was a private school advocacy day where MISF organized speakers to communicate the value of private education in the state of Minnesota. While the event was designed for administrators, Stender arranged a group of students to attend, "I think sometimes we forget the role citizens play in government. We talk a lot about being involved in government at Hillcrest, so this trip is natural in our program."

Students listened to Senate Minority Leader David Hann share details on the Educational Savings Accounts for Student with Special Needs Act. Hann shared that, "One of the biggest challenges in education is designing special education programs that meet the unique needs of our students. This proposal puts parents right in the center of the decision making process, because they know better than anyone how to help their children." The proposed act would give parents of children with special needs the power to choose the best educational options for their kids. It allows parents to use their child's per pupil funding and allocated special needs education dollars in ways that can optimally serve their child. The parents could direct their state-allocated per-pupil funding for education related therapies, tuition and fees at nonpublic schools specializing in a therapy or disability, textbooks and tutoring, or other education resources.

MISF coordinated with groups to train administrators to visit with representatives at the Capitol as part of the advocacy day. Hillcrest students feverishly took notes, holding a side-meeting with Stender to discuss the bills and how they impact Hillcrest. Huddling together, the group outlined basic points they would present in 15 minutes for the representatives. 

The students arrived in Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen's office shortly after noon. Their appointment with the Assistant Minority Leader, representative for District 8, started with handshakes and smiles. Julie Kasulis was the first to speak. As a tutor in Hillcrest's Online Learning Lab, Kasulis spoke to the intentional arrangement of the program. The Learning Lab, as Kasulis called it, is a classroom where students with learning difficulties sit side-by-side with students taking college classes online. The innovative classroom allows students who are struggling with a subject to receive support from fellow classmates, while also receiving attention from paraprofessionals. 

As Kasulis closed her presentation, Hillcrest senior Kevy Konynenbelt shared her excitement for the opportunity the bill affords families. She spoke to the benefit in seeking smaller learning settings with the freedoms a nonpublic school offers. JeeHoon Park, a representative of the student body from South Korea, shared a story of how Hillcrest supports students who have difficulties in traditional classrooms. He referenced chapel presentations and special concerts that students with alternative learning styles conduct on Hillcrest's campus as part of the student body. 

The students closed the day visiting Representative Bud Nornes, Chair of the Education Policy and Finance committee. The 10 term representative listened intently as students shared the value of their experience at Hillcrest. Kasulis highlighted how Hillcrest's small environment caused her to build patience working with friends and tutoring students. Evan Malmstrom from Battle Lake, MN spoke to his preparation and desire to serve in law enforcement. Stender also shared important points in the meetings, notably the economic impact nonpublic schools have on private businesses and the state education program. 

The group congregated near the rotunda following their day at the Capitol. Kasulis recalled how easy it was to visit with representatives. Stender noted that students saw good examples of public servants. "We didn't have a meeting setup with Bud (Nornes). So we were walking to his office to tell his secretary we stopped in. We saw him in the hallway and he opened his office door and spent forty-five minutes with us. It was incredible for our students to see."

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Hillcrest Tournament Unites Churches

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Hillcrest Tournament Unites Churches

The H.I.T. division 1A championship game launched into action with hundreds of eyes on the two competing teams. Both teams stood poised, ready for the title, bringing two days full of success into their evening championship game. The matchup will go down in the history books of the Hillcrest Invitational Tournament, marking the 49th annual weekend where 84 games were played in an effort to unite the Church of the Lutheran Brethren around the game of Basketball.

The Hillcrest Invitational Tournament, commonly known as H.I.T.'s, unites alumni, local churches, family and friends from coast-to-coast each year. Since the first gathering 49 years ago, area churches from New York, to California have descended on Fergus Falls to play basketball in area gyms, creating an iconic event that is a special part of the fabric of Hillcrest Academy.

Hillcrest students watched as players arrived in church vans and buses. Icy Hot and knee braces emerged from worn duffle bags as men and women gathered, giving hugs and telling stories of their time at Hillcrest. The weekend is a special time for alumni and friends of Hillcrest to gather around and reconnect.

This year a number of Hillcrest students pulled teams together to be a part of the action. Norway was represented, bearing jerseys with their team name, The Trolls, made up of this year’s Danielsen students. Team Korea’s roster bore the name of only three Koreans. Students from China, Canada, India and the United States. The two prominent international cultures of Hillcrest left their mark on the tournament. Unfortunately, neither team came out on top of their group. Jeehoon Park, Team Korea's captain, said, “We tried, but it just didn’t work. It’s not about winning the game, so it was just fun to play with a bunch of people.“

The 1A championship game intrigued everyone’s interest. The fierce competition and skill of Triumph NDSU and Toronto 3 was proven on the court. Matching each other point for point throughout much of the first half, the game seemed looked like it could go into double overtime. However, during the final minute of the gameToronto 3 pulled away with heroic shooting and two important steals. Iconic white H.I.T. Champion hats emerged from behind the score board as each team posed for pictures to post on social media and display at church the following Sunday.

Anticipating next year’s 50th annual tournament, 2016 calendars have been marked and many more teams are gathering for the celebration of the important event for Hillcrest Academy.

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Hillcrest's 3 Teams Earn Honors at Regional Knowledge Bowl Meet

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Hillcrest's 3 Teams Earn Honors at Regional Knowledge Bowl Meet

Chairs shuffled in the hall outside Life Church's sanctuary. Hans Holzner, Thomas Martinson, Reggie Undseth, Sam Isaac and Ellen Jacobs, Hillcrest's Sophomore Knowledge Bowl team, pulled their chairs in at their table for the written test and gazed towards the first place trophy. Scoring 45 points in the test, and outscoring opponents in the oral rounds, put Hillcrest in the lead of the six school regional Knowledge Bowl meet, earning Hillcrest a state berth in the process.

Hillcrest earned three of the six spots at the regional competition. Presenting their academic prowess, Hillcrest's Sophomore and Freshman team are showing their school to be a force in academic competition.

The written test at the regional meet placed Hillcrest's teams in second, third, and sixth place. As the squads sat down for the competitive oral rounds they knew they had ground to make up. The top two teams at the regional meet move-on to State competition. Hillcrest's goal was to grasp the two tickets available for State.

Gathering in separate rooms throughout the church, Hillcrest's teams went to work competing against Wheaton, Park Christian, and Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley. With three teams representing their school, Hillcrest's students felt comfortable with the competition and were primed to shine in the oral rounds.

Rapid-fire questions caused students to whisper, buzzing in with their team's button to solve complex math problems and provide answers to history and geography questions at an alarming rate. The Sophomore team pulled into first place with a two point lead after the first oral round. Hillcrest's Freshman and Senior squads followed, sixteen and five points off the pace respectively.

Over the following rounds the Sophomore team jolted the competition. A decisive third round provided a five point lead for the Comets, who closed the day with ninety-six points. The Senior team, Luke Jennen, Jonathan Eckhardt, Lucas Holzner, Matthew Lein, and Daniel Preston, placed third. Zak Zwiers, Eric Konynenbelt, Sam Ihrke, Danny Isaac, and Shantanu Mallick placed sixth, gathering valuable experience as the only all-freshman team at the regional competition.

The state competition is held at Cragun's Resort in Brainerd, MN on April 9 and 10. With the competition overlapping Hillcrest's choir tour, and most of the first place Sophomore team attending the Choir tour, they are forced to sit-out of the state competition. Because Hillcrest's Senior team placed third, they will take the vacated spot of the first place Sophomore team, as two teams from regional competition move to the State rounds. Four of the five Freshman knowledge-bowlers will also be on the Choir tour in April. Hillcrest's academic, athletic, and fine arts programs provide their small school a wide breadth of opportunities and experiences. The Knowledge Bowl program is no exception, as evidenced by the team's successes and accolades from their competition this year.

 

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Dominican Mission Team Prepares for Departure

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Dominican Mission Team Prepares for Departure

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Twenty seniors are set to leave the comforts of home to befriend strangers in a third-world country. Its scary, intimidating, and completely exciting. 

Hillcrest's senior class is offered the opportunity to travel to the Dominican Republic as part of their senior class mission experience. The group's preparation started in August with prayer teams and paperwork and is culminating in street testimony scenarios and singing songs in Spanish. 

Hillcrest adopted the Santa Fe school in the Dominican Republic in 2007. Diverting their mission work from Chihuahua, Mexico after nearly 10 years or ministry, Hillcrest selected the Dominican Republic as a new mission location as Mexico grew unsafe due to drug cartels south of the border. Since starting their relationship with Hillcrest, Santa Fe has purchased land from the Dominican government, built two new school buildings with classrooms, is starting to offer adult education, and is looking forward to building business opportunities for people in their surrounding village.

In Monday's commissioning service for the 2015 Dominican team, trip leader Gregg Preston recounted how Hillcrest's friendship with the school is impacting the community surrounding Santa Fe. "We have gone down and we share Christ with them. What happens after we left is that the school said, 'this group from the states shares the Gospel with us. What we should do is share it with our neighborhood.'" Preston outlined how the leadership at Santa Fe is taking their students to the surrounding community where vodoo and witchcraft rule. The leadership take their students door to door and share the Gospel. One day they were going to to share the Gospel in the neighborhoods the parents stopped the administration and said they wanted to join them. Preston testifies that he and his colleagues have witnessed the Gospel transform the neighborhoods in the Dominican Republic.

The group is set to depart at 2pm on Wednesday, March 25. The group will return Wednesday, April 1 and will share their mission experiences in April and May to surrounding churches, schools, and business leaders.

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Comets Sweep-in Medals at Knowledge Bowl Meet

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Comets Sweep-in Medals at Knowledge Bowl Meet

A legacy is forming for Hillcrest's Knowledge Bowl team. As Hans Holzner approached the front of the room to receive his medal he did so projecting a line of success that is likely to follow Hillcrest for years to come. All three Hillcrest squads will move-on to the sub-section round, a significant feat as Hillcrest took 3 of the top 6 places to earn the trip.

Hillcrest started out the day with their top squad ranking 3rd against the 53 team backdrop. 16 schools brought the best and brightest to the meet, with Hillcrest providing 3 teams of its own. Following the first round, Hillcrest's top team earned 12 points and moved into fourth place. Over the next three rounds they mustered enough points to move beyond teams from Park Christian, Hancock, Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley, and another Hillcrest team to take 1st place over the entire competition. 

As Hans Holzner, Reggie Undseth, Thomas Martinson, Sam Isaac, and Ellen Jacobs sat down with their first place medals, Hillcrest's other teams were preparing to rise. Luke Jennen, Jonathan Eckhardt, Matthew Lein, Lucas Holzner, and Daniel Preston took to the podium next as they gathered their fourth place medals. They were passed by Hillcrest's 1st place team in the third round and passed the baton to the underclassmen who are fearlessly representing their school.

Hillcrest's 6th place team, consisting of Zak Zweirs, Eric Konynenbelt, Shantanu Mallick, Danny Isaac, and Sam Ihrke organized an amazing third round. Scoring an unprecedented 20 points, the freshman team moved into the sixth place spot and beat Wheaton with a tie-breaker to earn a seat at the regional meet on March 24 at Life church.

The Comets have pulled together a number of incredible performances at Knowledge Bowl meets this year. Earlier competitions in large school divisions have prepared students to compete with confidence in the smaller school divisions. Students are looking forward to the opportunity of representing Hillcrest in the state meet on April 9 and 10 at Cragun's Resort.


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Comets Lead at Vocal Contest

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Comets Lead at Vocal Contest

The silence was deafening in the wake of Laura Tungseth's solo. The judge slowly lowered his eyes to his score card and raised his pen. Following a few seconds of notes, the judge gushed with admiration for Laura's piece. She earned a perfect score, an elusive award at a vocal contest.

The Vocal Solo and Ensemble Contest is highlight for students, who prepare and perfect a musical piece to perform for a respected judge, receiving feedback and a score. If the piece is particularly moving, the judge will ask the group to perform a second time, stopping the group at various places in the piece to give instruction and encouragement.

This year the contest was held at MSUM. All Chamber Choir members were required to participate in the event. Hillcrest was impressive throughout the day, earning six superior ratings and two excellent marks. Laura Tungseth's perfect score was touted as a prime achievement for the group.

The bus ride home was buzzing as students recalled the Jazz choir's piece. They sang Stand By Me, and the judge was so impressed that he asked the group to sing it again. As the group closed the first stanza of the song the judge led Hillcrest's singers in a march on stage as he danced and tapped his feet to the syncopation of the bass line. 

The accolades of a superior, or even an excellent rating, encourages students. Many times the lone concert or occasional church solo provides little feedback. Music contests propels students to work harder and use the judges suggestions to hone pieces. The day is also a fun time for students to connect with each other around music and recognize personal achievements. It provides students the opportunity to look at critique in a positive light, inspiring them to look forward to the next contest.

 

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Hillcrest Honors Scholars with NHS Induction

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Hillcrest Honors Scholars with NHS Induction

Students filed into Hillcrest's Chapel service Wednesday to see a row of proud parents. Connecting with friends and finding their seats the students watched as their class leaders were ushered to the front of room. The boys donned dress-shirts, the girls wore spring dresses. Those in ties and dresses awaited the ceremony for their National Honor Society induction at Hillcrest.

National Honor Society (NHS) urges students to well-rounded academic and social leadership. Students selected for NHS are recognized for excellence in areas of service, leadership, character, and academics. Hillcrest's NHS program requires a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.80 for sophomores, 3.75 for juniors, and 3.70 for seniors respectively. At the start of second semester, students with a GPA that meets their respective GPA requirements receives an application to apply for NHS.

Hillcrest's induction ceremony is a formal affair. The school's NHS president, Kevy Konynenbelt, was the master of ceremonies Wednesday, speaking with confidence as she led her classmates to honor the achievements of the selected leaders. Konynenbelt introduced Church of the Lutheran Brethren President Paul Larson, who shared his academic achievements. He paused outlining his accolades to share his family's coined phrase, O.O.T.M., which stands for only one thing matters. Larson shared stories and his Biblical basis for pointing his family to God through his family motto, in light of encouraging academic achievement.

22 members were inducted into Hillcrest's NHS chapter on Wednesday. Sophomores Abigail Christenson, Hans Frank-Holzner, Sam Isaac, Nate Larsen, Thomas Martinson, Sean McGuire, Meghan Peterson, Daniel Preston, Reggie Undseth joined Juniors Jordan Foss, Kelly Kim (Na Yeon), Karina Larsen, Vi Nguyen, Joseph Ryu, Alyssa Shilson. Select Seniors included Luke Jennen, JK Lee, Ashley Luo, Jeehoon Park, Adrienne Schultz, Maddie Veum, Jinhe Zhu (Adele).

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CLBA President Larson Delivers Memorable NHS Address

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CLBA President Larson Delivers Memorable NHS Address

“Well Congratulations! I know great potential lies in your future, it is there for you to claim,” President Paul Larson declared as he greeted the newest NHS members during Wednesday’s chapel induction ceremony. He quickly noted that although he’s not in high school any longer, he has been a student most of his life. From high school, President Larson went on to CLB Bible School, graduated from Rocky Mountain College, and earned a Master of Divinity degree from the Lutheran Brethren Seminary. After recounting memories of those school days, some good and some bad, President Larson proudly told the student body, “I overcame, and became who I am today.”

Moving into his message, President Larson invited the students, faculty, parents - the countless eyes and ears of the room - to his secret to success, happiness, and fulfillment of life. With much anticipation building in the room he repeated four letters, “OOTM.” Teasing the audience as to its meaning, President Larson enlightened the group following a series of snide comments and winks from his left eye. Only one thing matters, OOTM. He prompted everyone to figure out what that one thing is, but told the students that for the Larson family the only one thing that matters is to be in a saving relationship with Christ.

He then painted a picture of all the great things he hopes his children would achieve. After a laundry list of hopes and dreams he paused, and slowly hit students with reality. The only thing that really matters is their relationship to God. He focused his address back to the NHS members and acknowledged the great potential they each hold. “In the end, in the beginning, only, one, thing, matters.” He went on to tell everyone they truly have a choice between idolatry or God, encouraging the latter. Our achievements in academics, sports, work, and beyond can either be used for worship and dedication to God, or they become idols themselves. Once again, President Larson reminded the students, only one thing matters.

Addressing his children, Karina and Nate, and his nephews, Jake, Sam, and Danny, he looked to each of them saying he would trade all things for them to have a relationship with God. He referred to Isaiah 44:3-5. Then, taking a stroll down memory lane, he painted the picture of his brother and sister-in-laws’ graduation from Biola University. He recalled Dr. James Dobson as the speaker, sharing in great detail the graduation scene. Students in black graduation caps; thousands that sat before Dr. Dobson. President Larson recalled points from the address and the impact of Dobson's delivery, that sticks with President Larson to this day. And then, slowly, President Larson leaned forward, mimicking the stance that Dobson took on the stage at Biola. The words that President Larson next spoke were verbatim words Dr. Dobson spoke directly to his son, Ryan, who was graduating from Biola at the time. Picking out Ryan from the crowd, Dobson looked at his son and simply said “Be there.” To this day, that remains with President Larson, and those words cut like a knife through the pomp and circumstance of the NHS induction, calling students to know Christ and in response make Him known.

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Norwegians Visit Horse Ranch and Find American Flavor

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Norwegians Visit Horse Ranch and Find American Flavor

Spurs clanged like bells against a hay dusted floor at the Red Horse Ranch Tuesday morning. Members of the Minnesota State Community and Technical College's Equine Science program led horses past Hillcrest's Danielsen students soaking in a part of America they haven't seen.

The clap of hooves echoed through the stalls as David Gilbertson educated Hillcrest's students from Bergen, Norway with a crash course in Equine science. Gilbertson, owner of Gilbertson Forge, is a ferrier who cares for the horses and instructs in the college Equine program. He led what students said is the most interesting part of the tour. He shared details in horse anatomy that aren't covered in high school text books. Pointing to parts of the hoof as he trimmed, Gilbertson drew reference to the horse's design and how good horse trimming is essential for the health of the horse. 

The students participated in the field trip under the direction of Joyce Bruns. Bruns facilitates intercultural experiences for the Danielsen students while they attend Hillcrest Academy. The group is planning to attend a spring play at M-State in the spring, a Syttende Mai parade in Minneapolis in May, and a visit a series local churches before they travel home to Norway at the close of the school year.

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Comets Fall in Seesaw Match with Battlers

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Comets Fall in Seesaw Match with Battlers

2,500 fans packed seat-to-seat in Morris to watch state-ranked Battle Lake (#4) vs. Hillcrest Academy (#9) in another down to the wire game Friday night. 

Hillcrest put-on a ball handling clinic, committing a jaw-dropping 3 turnovers throughout the entire game. Inside looks to Jake Isaac opened the game and enabled Hillcrest's permitter shooters looks throughout the night. After tip-off the Comets sought to exploit a front-court mismatch on Isaac as Battle Lake's Petric Van Erp worked to contain Hillcrest's senior leader. As Isaac worked the inside, permitter shooters set their feet. Micah Jones connected from beyond the arc as both teams cut their teeth in the scoring columns, providing Hillcrest a 23-19 lead with 4:30 before intermission. Isaac answered with a put-back on the low block, his kiss off the glass gave the Comets a 25-21 lead minutes later. Isaac entered the locker room with 9 points.

That is one of the best 3-point shooting teams we have ever faced
— Battle Lake Coach Dan Peterka

The Battlers walked out of halftime with a 28-27 lead knowing there was more work to do. "There is never a save lead against that team." commented Battle Lake coach Dan Peterka. "That is one of the best 3-point shooting teams we have ever faced." Looking over their shoulder, Battle Lake took charge with a 13-3 run ten minutes before the final buzzer. After building a 46-36 lead, the Battlers watched Isaac soar. Isaac went to work putting in 13 points in the following minutes to cut Battle Lake's lead to 52-50. 

With the focus shifting to Isaac, Hillcrest's permitter shooters spotted-up. Junior Chris Tungseth knocked-down a 3-pointer with 1:06 remaining in the game, giving Hillcrest a 53-52 lead. The Battlers set their feet and didn't quit. Following a missed shot, Van Erp hit a layup and subsequent free-throw to build a 57-53 lead. Tungseth followed with two foul shots of his own to pull Hillcrest within two points. With 15 seconds in the game Battle Lake dribbled down the court despite Hillcrest's defensive front, sealing the win with a Van Erp put back in the final seconds.

Battle Lake heads to the State tournament with a 125-15 record over the past five seasons. The Comets closed their season on a hot night of shooting from Jake Isaac, who had a game high 28 points. The backcourt provided support with Tungseth's 11 points, Senior Evan Malmstrom's 3, and Senior Micah Jones' 5 points. The final score was 59-55.

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Loewen Embarks on Field Trip of a Lifetime While at HLA

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Loewen Embarks on Field Trip of a Lifetime While at HLA

Traveling through the Drake Passage in the roughest waters in world, having friendly meetings with penguins, and experimenting with plankton and icebergs were just a few highlights of the two week expedition Lane Loewen recently took through Antarctica.

Lane was the youngest of 66 people from 14 countries traveling with Students On Ice. As an 8th grader he joined the award-winning organization for an educational expedition to Antarctica. The group works to provide students, educators and scientists from around the world knowledge and respect of planet Earth through educational experiences. Lane is an experienced world traveler, having been to Mexico, England, and various parts of Europe. His trip to Europe was two years ago, with a group similar to Students on Ice.

Lane set-off for his Antarctic journey on Christmas Day. Their first stop was Buenos Aires, Argentina. He was quickly acquainted with the other members of the excursion as he boarded the ship he would call home for the coming week. English was the common language among the group. Lane recalls the Swedish members of the group having a peculiar accent.

Their journey started as they navigated through the Drake Passage, Elephant Island, and through the Northern Peninsula to Deception Island. They traveled through Whaler’s Bay and around the mainland of Argentina. Each day, the group took small boats to shore to spend two two-hour long sessions on the ice. Lane was accustomed to the temperatures hovering at zero, but many of his travel mantes were not. He recalls fellow explorers from Texas and Arizona struggling with the cool temperatures.

Some days were spent drilling blocks of ice the icebergs to study, while other afternoons were devoted to admiring the wild life. Lane recounts the massive amount of leopard seals that would poke their heads through the water near the group. The captivating animals have vicious teeth, wide eyes, are ten feet in length, and weigh in at nearly a ton, so the group made sure they spectated from a distance.

Other creatures, notably penguins, engaged with the explorers. Lane found the black and white birds to be his favorite, as they would waddle slowly to his side and peck at his boots. Large sperm whales unexpectedly made a visit to their area as well, uncommon for area they were in.  

The days they spent drilling into the ice were days of discovery. The group would run tests to find the amount of carbon residing in the bergs, also studying how much the floating ice has shifted. Other experiments with phytoplankton and zooplankton were intriguing to Lane.

Lane was startled at the immensity and overall vastness of Antarctica. Until actually stepping onto the ice and experiencing it for himself, Lane didn't have a true understanding of what goes on in the southern most part of the world. 

Lane plans to continue traveling the world in the years to come. Germany is a dream destination because of his love for architecture. Lane feels comfortable in Hillcrest’s student body, which is replete with world travelers with varied experiences. At 14 years old he is one of Hillcrest's youngest students, but his experiences and perspectives join an enriched student body that seeks to know God's word, participate in His world, and share His love.

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Comets Overcome Cold Night To Play for State

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Comets Overcome Cold Night To Play for State

Jake Isaac stumbled into the gym battling flu symptoms as he dressed in the locker room. Coach Gregg Preston hoped to use Jake sparingly in the first few minutes and assess his energy level at the half. After the Comets fell to an eleven point deficit Preston called a time-out to allow his team to regroup. It was clear the Comets were having an off night, and every player was needed to pull-off a win.

Senior guard Evan Malmstrom led the Comets with a resilient look on the court after the challenging start. "We came out and our offensive movement of the basketball, cuts away from the ball, and offensive agressiveness was less than sharp," recalled Preston, "Evan Malmstrom and Tommy Thompson did a great job of handling the ball, playing excellent perimeter defense and hitting some key baskets especially in the second half."

The Comets uncharacteristically struggled on the offensive end. Isaac missed routine layups and Chris Tungseth failed to knock-down his signature jump shots to start the game. The Comets shot just 31% (15/49) from the floor. Their 36% (8/22) from beyond the arc added to the frustration on the offensive end. To make up for their lack-luster offense, the Comets fortified their defense and attacked the glass. Isaac and Tungseth did their part, pulling down 8 and 11 rebounds respectively. 

The second half saw a different Comet squad. Emerging from the locker room the Comets saw an 18-17 score above their heads at the Concordia College gym. Their attention shifted to overcoming the one point deficit and increase their scoring opportunities. "I knew we could get it going," voiced Senior guard Evan Malmstrom. "We tried to slow things down in the second half and work the ball inside to the post." The Comets took a smooth layup from sophomore guard Reggie Undseth to boost their lead to 21-20 with 15 minutes left. Tungseth posted-up the rest of the night, revealing a weakness in Waubun's defensive front, scoring 13 of his 16 points after intermission. Isaac heated-up from the free-throw line following Tungseth's lead, and ended the night with 20 points to his name.

Preston patted his squad on the back following a difficult night. "I'm really proud of our team for keeping their composure despite struggling offensively. They stayed at it and defended until the end." The Comets now face the South sub-Section 6A champions in Friday nights Section 6A final at 7pm at the University of Minnesota Morris for a state tournament berth.

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Alumni Bring Inspiration Through Worship Night

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Alumni Bring Inspiration Through Worship Night

Most students look at spring vacation as a time to visit someplace sunny and warm. A group of Hillcrest alumni boarded flights to travel north to Fergus Falls, bringing a message that has inspired the student body. 

2014 Hillcrest graduate Zoey Schweitzer led a group of students from Norway in a return to Hillcrest Academy for a worship night last Friday. They reunited with current students to form a praise team that included students from South Korea, Norway and Fergus Falls. "(Our) band tradition (is that) Jeehoon writes 'God is love' in Korean on the side of our hands during our huddle before we go on stage. I'm so amazingly blessed that this is the team of friends and bandmates God has placed in my life," Schweitzer posted on her social media feed shortly after the concert.

The group practiced for three days before the event. Hillcrest's technical department setup staging, lights, trussing and speakers for the students. The school used the setup for their Friday praise and worship service, where Schweitzer and the band led the school in a shortened worship and testimony time. As the group closed the chapel service they invited the entire student body to join them in worship that evening.

I’m so amazingly blessed that this is the team of friends and bandmates God has placed in my life.
— Zoey Schweitzer | 2014 Alumni

As students scurried back to class the hallways were buzzing with excitement. Senior Alexandra Larson told staff that the chapel service was one of her highlights from the year. As the school day ended and students hurried to the dormitory and sports practices they started making plans to reconvene in the gym for a time of singing and worship of Jesus. 

As students piled into the gym they noticed the chairs from the chapel service had been removed. A soft haze lingered in the air as lights from the stage went dark and the music started. Band members walked on stage with glowing bracelets and drumsticks moving to the music. Amy Huynh, a Vietnamese student new to Hillcrest, said the atmosphere was incredible, noting how the student body became closer through the night. Students raised hands in worship of Jesus as voices echoed in the hallways of Hillcrest's 100 year old building. 

Hillcrest's impact on students is evident as alumni use their spring breaks to venture through snow to encourage their alma mater. The students from Norway boarded planes the Saturday following the service enroute to the Danielsen School to complete their final year of high school. Many more will travel back to Hillcrest to see friends and their former school, viewing Fergus Falls as a home away from home and a destination to travel to.

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Comets Even Post-Season Mark with Falcons

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Comets Even Post-Season Mark with Falcons

Hillcrest avenged last seasons semi-final loss to Park Christian with a 74-64 thriller at Concordia College on Saturday, February 28. 

Jumping to a quick ten point lead, the Comets took control of the game and never looked back. Shooting 52% from the floor, Hillcrest seemed to make nearly every shot they took. A last second loose-ball-turn-around-jumper from Chris Tungseth to end the first half was evidence that Hillcrest was having an on-night shooting. "The first half we did an excellent job of offensive execution and our defensive help and on-ball pressure was very good.  Chris Tungseth played another tremendous game.  He made good decisions with the ball, hit big shots and rebounded well," noted Comet Coach Gregg Preston.

The Comets took their 35-22 lead into the second half and found the Falcons ready to play. The final eighteen minutes nearly looked like a different game. Park Christian executed time and again, battling back from their deficit to bring the game within two baskets with three minutes to play. 

Preston recalled, "Like many of our games this year, the players that came off the bench contributed in big ways to knock off PCS.  The first half, Ben Herzog scored 9 of his 11 points and the second half, Tommy Thompson drained three big three pointers to add 9 second half points.  In addition, Kyler Newman scored 8 points off the bench.  We built a 17 point lead in the second half and Park came back to within four with 3 minutes left."  

As Hillcrest faced the final minutes the game looked to teeter in Park Christian's favor. However, a hard earned layup by Kyler Newman, rendering a few bruises and a trip to the free throw line, gave Hillcrest a spark. The Comets again took charge, increasing the lead to 10, and never looked back.

Chris Tungseth took the torch for the Comets, leading with 17 points, 8 assists, 6 rebounds, and 4 steals. Jacob Isaac added 16 points and 9 rebounds while Ben Herzog provided 11 points and 7 rebounds.

The Comets play top-seeded Waubun on Tuesday night at 6pm at Concordia College in Moorhead for the right to play in the Section 6A championship.

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Comets Earn 6th Title in 7 Years at Math Competition

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Comets Earn 6th Title in 7 Years at Math Competition

Seven Hillcrest students placed in the top ten at the High School level, taking 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th and 8th places.

Hillcrest Academy's math students took first place in both the High School and Beginning High School levels at the Tri-College Math Competition. Forty-seven students from Hillcrest's one hundred and seventy-five person student body competed, outscoring every school in both the large and small schools divisions.

Schools from as far west as Bismarck and as far north as Thief River Falls competed in the 23rd annual event that was hosted at Concordia College, Moorhead. Counting all levels of the competition, 55 schools sent 232 teams, supplying over 2000 competitors.The Tri-College Competition is rotated each year between three colleges, North Dakota State University (NDSU) in Fargo and Concordia College and Minnesota State University Moorhead (MSUM) in Moorhead. This year, the tests were written by the NDSU math department. 

Seven Hillcrest students placed in the top ten at the High School level, taking 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th and 8th places. At the Beginning High School level Hillcrest placed four students in the top ten with the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th places.

2014 marks the sixth year in the last seven that Hillcrest has won first place in the Senior High division.

Hillcrest’s teams had an international flavor, consisting of American, Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, and Norwegian students. The students represented all high school grades at Hillcrest, with many having participated in Hillcrest's Math program for over two years since joining the school as boarding students.

2015 marks the sixth year in the last seven that Hillcrest has won first place in the Senior High division. Their continued dominance in the competition is earning many students recognition as they transition to NDSU seeking degrees in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM). Mathematics instructors Brent Juliot and Stephen Doering served as the coaches for the teams. 

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Comets Fall in Shoot-out with Battlers

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Comets Fall in Shoot-out with Battlers

Disciplined in their approach, the Comets looked to avenge their home loss to the State ranked Battlers Tuesday night. Crisp passes from guards to posts helped the Comets put on a shooting clinic, hitting 55% for their shots from the floor and 83% from the free throw line. The game was tied at 40 as both teams headed into the locker room.

Entering the playoff atmosphere for the second half the Battlers put together a precision campaign to save their undefeated record at home this year. "Tony, Petrick, Nick, and Andrew all make such good cuts, passes, and finish well," noted coach Gregg Preston. Battle Lake, known for their athleticism, plays smart basketball, and worked to dismantle the Comet front. "we will need to play better help defense and position a bit better on the defensive glass as tournament time is quickly approaching," commented Preston after highlighting the successes of his team on the night.

Battle Lake controls the rebound margin in most games. Their work against the Comets saw Battler post players lower their center of gravity on a number of plays, out positioning the Comets and working to take an advantage on the glass. Junior guard Chris Tungseth worked to neutralize the Battler efforts. Converting 8 three-pointers, Tungseth finished with 39 points. "Chris Tungseth was tough on our defense," lamented Battle Lake Coach Dan Peterka. "He hit shots with a hand in his face time after time. I thought our guys responded well down the stretch and got a few stops and were able to convert on our offensive end."

With the score in Battle Lake's favor with seconds left the Comets looked to Jake Isaac. Scoring 27 points, with 10 for 11 free throws on the night, Isaac drew defenders off screens and caught the ball behind the arc. Stabilizing his feet he looked for a good shot. With defenders crashing down on his position Isaac held his form and watched his shot bounce away. 

The Comets' loss bounces them to 2nd in seedings for playoffs. They will play Minnewaska for their final regular season game on Thursday. 

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Senior Night Thriller Leaves Comets on Up Swing

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Senior Night Thriller Leaves Comets on Up Swing

Hillcrest's Boys Basketball team is putting together a streak of entertaining games that are leaving fans jumping. Senior Ben Herzog started his hot night of scoring with a baseline dunk, and Jake Isaac flashed his athletic prowess with a backboard alley-oop in the second half, giving the Comets momentum to stop a hot-handed Underwood team.

Underwood started the game by trading scores with the Comets. For every defensive stop or layup the Comets produced, Underwood stood at the other end of the court copying the Comets' efforts. 

Hillcrest pulled away with determination in the second half. Closing the night shooting 40%, Hillcrest outworked Underwood in a half-court trap, causing turnovers that presented the Comets with some colorful scoring opportunities. 

Hillcrest was led by Ben Herzog, who scored 23 point with 7 rebounds and 7 steals in his senior night contest. The Comets look ahead to Wheaton/Herman-Norcross for a President's Day double-header before their highlighted game in Battle Lake on Tuesday, February 17.

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Missing the Mark with American Sniper

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Missing the Mark with American Sniper

Chris Kyle's story is retold through the movie American Sniper. Nominated for 6 Academy awards, the graphic war film is becoming a nationwide favorite. But, the fan favorite missed the mark to Chris Kyle's hope in jesus.

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Comets Avenge Loss at Parkers

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Comets Avenge Loss at Parkers

The Comet boys scored 55 points in the second half, rolling to another victory. At 16-2, the Comets sit closely behind Battle Lake and look forward to a likely match-up versus the conference rivals.

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