Comets Score 6 Runs in 2-Out Clutch Hitting for 7-4 Victory

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Comets Score 6 Runs in 2-Out Clutch Hitting for 7-4 Victory

After Mondays pitching duel loss to up and coming Ortonville, the Comets boarded the bus Thursday having sharpened some of the skills they used to keep Mondays game close. Their practice sessions paid off in a big way as Wheaton struggled to catch up to a Comet team that is making a statement.

Having used hurler Sean McGuire to quell Ortonville's loud bats on Monday, Hillcrest sent Reggie Undseth to kick the rubber. Undseth peered through the batters box for five innings on the day, giving Hillcrest a chance to level their record when he marched to the dugout with a 4-2 lead.

The game started in a familiar way for the Comets. McGuire is known to make use of the base path, and his single to start the game was routine. Shouts from the Comet dugout wafted around McGuire who dusted-off his jersey with a steal of second during the next at bat. With first base open, Chris Tungseth gripped the bat a little tighter. McGuire is usually in scoring position for Tungseth. It's a sweet one-two punch for the Comets. 

Tungseth singled and sent McGuire home to start the scoring. After Wheaton leveled the score on a fielder choice, they loaded the bases. Undseth calmly threw strikes and trusted his defense, walking to the dugout with a 1-1 tie while Wheaton scratched their heads and took to the field empty handed after their full-deck on the bases.

Undseth cooly worked Wheaton's lineup. At the end of the day he allowed 3 hits in 5 innings. The Comets rewarded his work with a three run 5th where Sam Ihrke boarded first base with one out for the Comets. Eric Konynenbelt tagged Sam Ihrke and took first base as a pinch runner. Konynenbelt stole second and moved to third on a throwing error. Head Coach Steve Undseth knows how to use his personnel.

Reggie Undseth singled for the Comets, driving in Konynenbelt to give the Comets a 2-1 lead before Tungseth doubled to make it a 4-1 score. Wheaton scored a run on Undseth in the 5th on a fielder's choice grounder, closing Hillcrest's lead to 4-2.

In the 6th inning Jake Steinle reached first, moved to second after Nick Foss executed a sacrifice bunt, and moved home after Sam Ihrke singled into the outfield grass. The run was pivotal for the Comets who faced an angry Wheaton lineup that nailed two doubles off Tungseth, closing Hillcrest's lead to 5-4.

Hillcrest took to the bats in the 7th knowing they needed to capitalize on the momentum they built in the previous two frames. When Tungseth reached on an error there was a new electricity in the dugout. Trey Bosek signled to move Tungseth to second before Colin Erickson took to the plate. With the back part of the lineup starting, Wheaton sat back with an expectation of leaving the inning down one run. Stepping into the box, kicking a slice of dirt over the back of the plate, Erickson peered in looking to push fellow underclassmen Bosek and Senior Captain Tungseth across the plate. With the crack of his bat Erickson darted to first. The high flying ball caught Wheaton off-balance. As Wheaton tracked the ball back it kept soaring. The ball reached the fence with thud and Erickson was half-way to second. Tungseth was holding his glove, readying his final inning of pitching and Bosek was high-fiving the dugout as the Comets stood with a 7-4 lead. 

Tungseth held the frame scoreless and Hillcrest boarded the bus with a 7-4 win, scoring 6 runs with two-outs on the day. "I was so pleased with our two-out hitting today," noted Coach Undseth after the game. "Colin's hit was huge as it restored our 3-run lead. Reggie pitched very well in his first start of the year." Undseth noted that the two-out hitting was contagious for his lineup as the game grew closer. The important win now sends Hillcrest to Ashby with a 2-2 record as they host Ashby Friday at 4:30pm.

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Prayer Day Unites Nations Through Time-tested Practice

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Prayer Day Unites Nations Through Time-tested Practice

“Write down the first five names that come to your mind,” Principal Isaac said, opening Prayer Day at Hillcrest Academy last month. A shuffling of papers and pens washed over the silence in the old gym. With every student bouncing names of friends and acquaintances through their mind a unique start to prayer day set the stage for the school. Today was about building community through prayer.

Students fixed their eyes on Principal Isaac for the first session. A teaching on prayer preceded a presentation of the Gospel. The focus on Jesus helped students understand the work of the cross. The stage was set for communication with God because of Jesus' work. With the Gospel in the fore of students' minds, the lights dimmed and a group of Norwegian students made their way to the stage. 

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A room filled with fifteen circles of chairs, the old gym was encompassed with groups of people who were randomly placed together in chair pods. Students and staff spent the day focused outwardly rather than inwardly. It didn't phase the body of Hillcrest students that they weren't sitting next to best friends. Their comfort in praying outloud wasn't a problem. The practice of bowing heads in unison was uniting.

Along with open prayer time, Hillcrest’s staff arranged to have twenty-minute slots set aside for particular prayers and scripture to meditate on.  With each time slot came a new theme. A couple hundred people, thanking God for his blessings for twenty-minutes, followed with worship. Every student and leader was singing, some lifting hands high, united in one loud voice declaring the love of God. The room radiated from the worship of Jesus Christ.

After lunch a new sense of community wafted into the gym as students gathered to continue their day of outward focus. Knowing there were Christian and non-Christian students gathered, their presence showed a bond that only Jesus can build, regardless of a conscious belief in God. A senior from Iran stood before his peers during the post-lunch share time. He stepped up to the mic as Prayer Day was coming to an end. His words cast a look of surprise on many of his friends in the audience.

“I am not Christian. I am not Muslim. But I just have to say- whatever you guys are- you’re awesome. And these past six months [at Hillcrest] have been the best six months of my life.”

By the time the day was over every student prayed for world leaders, ISIS, and Hillcrest’s family. The school year is drastically different after a day of prayer and reflection.

 

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Comets Leap Over Last Years Section Champ to Start Season

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Comets Leap Over Last Years Section Champ to Start Season

Brandon-Evansville ended their season with a win last year. They earned 3rd place and boasted a strong team. It is likely the Chargers felt they were staring at mirrored image of their team last year, boding well for the Comets who return a nearly full lineup and are threatening a State run this year.

Sean McGuire stands on the mound most days for the Comets. He is the first building block that is causing many teams to realize Hillcrest is a wall between every team in the section and a trip to Target Field for State. Friday, McGuire showed Brandon-Evansville some of the tools he has in his pocket. McGuire went 3-for-4 at the plate, knocking in a run on 2 singles and a double. McGuire tore up the base path for the Comets, scoring twice on his way to earning the first win of the season from the mound. McGuire pitched 5 solid innings, allowing one hit and striking out 8 with great command.

Behind McGuire sits a team that is showing they're more than a back-up to McGuire's pitching. The Comets gunned down 4 runners after first base Friday, with only one miscue on a grounder in their first game of the season. In saving McGuire's arm, Steve Undseth, Hillcrest's head coach, called on Senior Chris Tungseth to tie up the game for McGuire. With Brandon-Evansville's bats warming up, Tungseth closed the game out with good command and a decent outing for the first game of the year.

Tungseth helped his cause by knocking in 2 RBIs on the night, scoring twice in his time at the plate. Reggie Undseth followed McGuire and Tungseth's lead, landing on first base 3 times to steal 2 bases on the day while tapping in an RBI.

The stat line shows that the Comets came to play, but the first inning at the plate for the Comets proved to set the tone for their first game of the season. Undseth led off with a walk. Jordan Foss followed suit. McGuire placed a single into the outfield and Undseth's quick footwork put him across home plate. Tungseth placed a solid double into the outfield, scoring Foss. With McGuire on third base his eyes were glued on home plate. When a third strike was thrown McGuire took off, seeing the ball roll away from Brandon-Evansville's catcher who was looking to get the out at first base. With McGuire stealing home, Hillcrest went up 3-0. Austin Perleberg-Hunt placed a single past the infield and Tungseth moved from third to home, putting the Comets up 4-0 with precision small-ball played in the first inning. 

This momentum fed into the third inning, where Hillcrest batted the entire order. Hits by Trey Bosek, Collin Erickson, Nick Foss, and Undseth put Hillcrest up 8-0 before the midpoint of the game. "It was a lot of fun running around the bases as 7 different guys scored," noted Steve Undseth after the game. "It was a great outing for our first game of the season."

Hillcrest opens their home field at the Legion Field on Monday, April 18 at 5pm.

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Knowledge Bowl Earns Top 10 Finish in Crowded State Competition

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Knowledge Bowl Earns Top 10 Finish in Crowded State Competition

Hans Holzner, Thomas Martinson, and Jake Steinle saw rewards for their work in knowledgebowl, after opting out last year. The trio earned a bid to compete in the knowledgebowl state competition last year, but committed to attend Hillcrest's band tour that fell on the same weekend. The three were determined to get back to state and represent what is happening in the halls of Hillcrest with some of the smartest students in the State. 

The busy trio joined Luke Bowman and Daniel Preston this year to form a 5 man team that was the best in the region by far. This 5 man team consisted of a State Cross-country runner, Section final football player, a member of Hillcrest's undefeated basketball team, and some musicians who won accolades at various music contests. The mosaic of successes that follow this team is nothing short of extraordinary. Their work in knowledgebowl's state competition followed suit.

Nervously sitting in room of 4X8 folding tables, the Hillcrest team set to work. Their night of excitement was behind them, walking around the campus of Craguns resort with the beauty of lakes country at their finger tips. The team was focused. They didn't get distracted by the resort.

When competition morning came the Comets were ready. The team won 3rd place in the written round, a true test of knowledge where students feverishly complete questions with paper and pencil. When the oral round opened, the Comets sat in a room with the best students in the state. They were in the 1st place room.

Their fingers lightly tapped the green strip that lay across their table. They were nervous. The buzzer strip isn't very sensitive to touch. The team turned their left ears to hear questions, their right hand held pencils over paper, prepared for the obscure math question to throw them off the history and geography sections of the quiz. When buzzers rang a gentle breeze was felt throughout the room. Students hold their breath in knowledgebowl, releasing pent up air in unison. When the first round finished, Hillcrest managed 10 points, well off the pace of their previous meet where they scored nearly 18 points in each round. 

The 10 point total bumped the Comets back to the second place room, a 6th place ranking followed them on the walk from 3rd place. They would experience similar results for much of the day, earning an average of 10 points in the proceeding rounds. The Comet's consistency kept them in the 3rd room for much of the day, where they competed against the 6th-9th place teams.

When the final buzzer sounded and the teams gathered for the awards ceremony, Hillcrest stood in 8th place. With medals around their neck they looked back at the 24 school competition, realizing their team is in the top 10 and is returning all members next year. Hans Holzner said the experience was incredible. He will look to repeat the success he and his team earned this year as they think about their Senior year. 

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Lady Comets Carry Home 10-2 Win In First Game of the Season

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Lady Comets Carry Home 10-2 Win In First Game of the Season

The Lady Comets fought through a lot of heartache last year. After their 5-9 record, 3-7 in the conference last year, there appears to be a renewed a spark that is igniting a fire in Craig Nersten's squad this year.

After watching All-conference pitcher Laura Tungseth walk across Hillcrest's graduation stage in May to begin a collegiate softball career at M-State in Fergus Falls, the Comets noticed a big hole on the mound. They looked to the backstop and saw a sinkhole where Tungseth's cousin, Abby Taylor, camped out for four years. Missing two key positions, it is natural to think the Comets were looking ahead to more dreary days. This couldn't be further from the truth.

When Hillcrest boarded the bus for their first softball game in Ortonville there was extreme excitement. Junior Nicole Dekok followed her mother's footsteps in treking to Fergus Falls to attend Hillcrest. Next to the tupperware container in Nicole's car packed with desk lamps and fans for her Hillcrest dorm room sat her softball bag. Nicole is an ace pitcher, looking forward to two dominating seasons with the Comets.

As Nicole crossed Ohio on her path to the Castle, Ruthanne Erickson was packing up her cleats for a new venture in softball at Hillcrest. Ruthie hasn't played a specific position, journeying to Hillcrest after hearing stories of the glory days from her mother. 

When school started in August, Nersten dusted-off his scouting book and started talking to girls about playing softball. He had a few holes to fill, but they didn't seem ominous. All-conference shortstop Megan Aasness would be back, along with her school record 27 steals in a single season. She plays well in Nersten's system. He is looking forward to her racking up more steals as she finishes her school year by setting a high bar with the school steals record.

Nersten also saw first base covered. Annie Murphy was honorable mention at the position at last seasons conference meeting. Sophie Iverson was also talked about at the gather. She is going to be a utility cornerstone for the Lady Comets. Emma Royce and Karina Larson will bring some baserunners in for the Comets with their keen eye and quick reflexes form the plate. They'll nail down the outfield for the Comets this year. Nersten knows this bedrock of returning players is going to keep eyes on the Comets all season. 

As Dekok and Erickson walked into the Student Union at Hillcrest in August, Nersten saw two of the remaining 3 pieces he needed to build a very successful team for the next few seasons. The final building block is Nersten's niece, Tara Ferenczy, who will play 3rd base and tack down the corner for the Lady Comets opposite Murphy. 

This new squad practiced despite frigid temperatures last week, boarding a bus yesterday to play in Ortonville. The nearly two hour bus ride didn't seem to phase the Comets. They came to show their conference the difference a year makes in girls softball.

As Dekok warmed up, throwing pitches at lightning speed to the Comets' new catcher, Ruthie Erickson, Nersten grew impressed. Erickson took the warm ups in stride, digging in and gritting her teeth as Dekok held little back to prep Erickson. The two would work like seasoned veterans throughout the afternoon. 7 innings later they would hug on the mound, the first of what is likely to be many victories for the new pitching-catching tandem for the Lady Comets.

Behind Dekok, the Lady Comets dusted off their gloves and pulled cobwebs from their cleats. The first three innings didn't resemble the final four. Sluggishness in the field and difficulty rounding the bases on offense led to only two Comet scores in the first three frames. Dekok kept her team in the game, striking out 12 Ortonville sluggers, walking none, and allowing only one earned run in her first start in red and white. 

The Comets caught fire in the fourth, after their legs were back under them from their two hour nap on the bus. Three runs in the fourth and sixth innings catapulted Hillcrest out of their funk. Megan Aasness was a shining gem for the Lady Comets, jumping on base with 3 hits, stealing 4 bases, including home.

Aasness benefitted from the Comets' early work in the batting cages. Her success on the base path was made possible thanks to Iverson and Dekok striking fear in the eyes of Ortonville's pitchers. The tandem hitters placed a few long doubles over the infield, calling extra attention from the mound that left Aasness freedom to stroll around the base path at her leisure. 

After 7 innings of Comet highlights Nersten directed his team in a huddle, casting vision for the season as the sky erupted in a cheer of pink, orange, and blue behind the huddle. Nersten's squad lined up by the fence before boarding the bus. They couldn't stop smiling after their dominant 10-2 victory.

The Comets travel to Pelican Rapids Monday for a 5pm game. Their home opener is Tuesday, April 19 at 5pm at Hannah Park.

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Classroom Turns to Community Time to Unite Nations

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Classroom Turns to Community Time to Unite Nations

Once a month during staff meetings, the entire student body (7-12) gathers on the floor of the Student Activity Center for a time of Community Building. This usually involves some kind of group competition or activity. Today's event was the 2nd Annual National Anthem Sing-Off.

200+ students were divided up into groups according to 13 countries: Canada, Thailand, Turks & Caicos, China, Vietnam, Norway, Korean, Iran, Malaysia, Russia, Tanzania, Nigeria, and America. At least one representative from each country was assigned the task of teaching their entire group their national anthem. They had fifteen minutes.

Much scrambling and laughter ensued as the "teachers" stretched themselves to teach foreign words and a strange melodies to their classmates. Finally, each group took center stage to perform. A predominantly Norwegian group learned and sang the Nigerian national anthem. A group from several countries stood in a semi-circle and belted out the Korean national anthem. As Oh, Canada was sung, one Canadian student was so moved he ran the circumference of the gymnasium holding an imaginary Olympic torch.

Finally, the moment we'd all been waiting for arrived. Who would take home the prize? The runner-up was announced--Norway--for Most Enthusiastic. They may not have gotten many of the words correct but they sang out with all their hearts. The winner was then announced...CHINA!!! The multi-ethnic group rejoiced and headed over to the Comet Café to collect their free slushies.

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The Last Words of Jesus Illuminate the Dying Wish of a Resurrected Man

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The Last Words of Jesus Illuminate the Dying Wish of a Resurrected Man

Six year-olds dress in cute little suits and dresses for church at Easter. Their outfits que factories to produce over 90 billion chocolate bunnies and 120 million pounds of candy for the holiday, as the Easter bunny dry cleans his suit before the big day. These images are accessible for nearly every american, but the traditions of Easter are redeemed in Stu Epperson’s The Last Words of Jesus. Readers receive a deeper purpose and significance for faith in reading Epperson’s take on Jesus’ last words.

Epperson gives readers an insightful look at the cross. He starts with Jesus brutally nailed to the tree. The first phrase Epperson camps out in is, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Epperson calls readers to a profound instruction that will likely cause many to fold the page and stare out the window as the direction takes hold.

Epperson illuminates an extreme example of how Christians should live their lives. Specifically zeroing in on Luke’s Gospel, Epperson shows how Jesus calls Christians to bless persecutors (5:11), forgive debtors (6:12), bless those who curse (5:44), and forgive seventy times seventy times (18:21-22). The call of the first chapter sets the stage for a grace-filled view of Jesus, who undeservedly hangs on a cross next to thieves.

Life and death, along with Heaven and Hell, are exposed to the two thieves on either side of the Middle Man. Jesus gives a word of pardon to the second thief who recognized his sin and repented by saying, “Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou  be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). Epperson states, “To know Jesus is to know peace.” A thief, subject to his deserved punishment, is reborn and transformed. A pause in the second chapter leads readers to see the  incredible reality of what happens when believers truly know Christ.

Through the book Epperson reveals the truly human nature of Jesus, highlighting Good Friday as a time where Jesus takes care of business in a truly otherwordly way.

In the final chapter Epperson places the final strokes on the Good Friday picture of perfection, when Jesus said, “It is finished.” Epperson does something unique in his final pages, comparing Jesus’ saying to man’s constant striving for achievement. Epperson leads reader to see that Jesus secures peace with his perfection through the Cross. Epperson asks a provoking question in the shadow of Jesus. “Today, will you stop fighting the war and let His perfect peace conquer your soul?”

Through reading Epperson’s book, the reader notices how Jesus’ last words redirect our attention to the meaning of Easter. There is a new level of importance that is revealed through Epperson’s writing and honest questions. Readers see Easter as more than the bunnies and candy. Easter is the celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection for the sins of all mankind.

A dying man’s final words cut to the heart of hope or hopelessness. In essence, they command more respect than any other words spoken. Jesus’ final words leave Christians in awe, and as Epperson artfully says, “[Jesus last words] won’t appear on his tombstone because Jesus’ last words were not His final words. The stone was rolled away!”

Epperson prays his book will lead readers to strive towards reading the Bible daily, investing their relationship with God, and ultimately hear Him speak to them and be changed forever. It is also the desire of the man who died on the Cross to live again. Epperson shows the heart of Jesus is to open a way for believers to know God, have confidence in Jesus' death, and live renewed in the work of the cross and resurrection from the grave.

 

 

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Comets Dominate in Region Meet, Move to State Knowledgebowl Competition

Knees bounced in anticipation as the final round of questions was set to begin. Hillcrest pounced to a first place lead, after starting the day in 3rd place. Their meet high 22 points scored in the oral round catapulted the region's top team over all competitors, where Hillcrest finished the day with a 15 point advantage wearing blue ribbons and smiles.

Entering the final round, Hillcrest knew they needed to answer a meager 5 questions correctly to advance to State. The Comets could've sat out an entire round. No team scored more than 14 points in any given round, apart from the Comets, who dominated with a 22 point opening round and a 16 point closing round, placing an exclamation point on their win Tuesday morning at the Regional meet.

Thomas Martinson, Luke Bowman, Hans Frank-Holzner, Daniel Preston, and Jake Steinle stared blankly at their table while questions were read throughout the day. When the group was able to buzz-in, sometimes after hearing only three words of the question, a debate ensued where the team deliberated before fist pumps and high fives marked the scorers response to their answer. The team is not new to success. Thomas Martinson played soccer on Hillcrest's undefeated squad. Daniel Preston played on Hillcrest's historic basketball team this year, and Luke Bowman and Hans Frank-Holzner were part of Hillcrest's Cross-Country team, that saw Hans compete at the State Cross-Country meet last fall. 

Sitting opposite the Comet first place team is another Hillcrest team that is familiar with success as well. Lucas Frank-Holzner was a part of an All-State music group, and Reggie Undseth and Sam Isaac played basketball with Daniel this year. Matthew Lein is a high achieving student who is leading Hillcrest's successful National Honor Society. 

Hillcrest's second team achieved the second highest point total in the oral round, scoring a staggering 45 points through the 4 round competition. They serve as a worthy training opponent to the Comet team advancing to state. Practice in the coming weeks is likely to involve some jockeying, as 7 of the 9 Comet knowledgebowlers will return next year to make another run at State. Hillcrest's State qualifying team this year scored 67 points in the oral rounds of the regional meet. 

The State meet is held at Craguns resort on Thursday, April 13th and 14th. Last year Hillcrest's top team was disbanded due to the school's annual choir tour. This year the Comets will see a unified team that is continuing to represent what is happening in the Comet classrooms through their knowledgebowl successes.

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Comets Receive Awards from On-Going Art Show

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Comets Receive Awards from On-Going Art Show

"I want all of my art students to create art with their hearts, not with their brains," said Mr. Peterson, Hillcrest's art teacher. He said he expects students to have new perspectives on creating artwork as they see it. He took some of his best students to an art show this semester, and their work speaks to his goal.

On Friday, January 22nd, seven Hillcrest students went to the Roland Dille Center for the Arts at Minnesota State University in Moorhead (MSUM) to participate in the regional high school art exhibition. MSUM allowed 23 high schools to bring seven students each. 

Yearim Yang, a junior at Hillcrest, brought a drawing based on an Oreo snack box. She said that art used to be stressful for her, feeling the need to make everything perfect. She went on to say that, "Whenever I start to draw something I feel excitement," showing her attitude is changing while studying art at Hillcrest. "At MSUM, I learned many new techniques and met artists who have a lot of passion in arts. The festival gave an idea that there are so many different areas in arts."

Sherry Xiao also showed a drawing, a picture of her grandfather. Julia displayed a painting, and Sammi Debates showed a clay sculpture. Sylvia Venberg displayed a hand-made dragon sculpture. Elias Pribbenow and Kate Anderson showed digital photographs.

Each student had opportunity to experience 4 different workshops for 50 minutes each. MSUM offered different kinds of workshops, ranging frompainting techniques, to drawing, digital photography, and ceramic pottery. After all students had time in the workshops, the contest awarded cash prizes for each media category in Gaede Theater. 

Mr. Peterson had great expectation about this festival. "I know we are taking great artwork, but my greater expectation is to see how much great talent students have in our region," he said. "Also, I am sure that my students will learn invaluable art techniques from MSUM."

All students who participated Art Exhibition at Minnesota State University in Moorhead got great opportunities to encounter the new art world that they never had before. The artwork is on display at Gaede Theatre at MSUM until July 28th for public display. 

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Comets Dominate in Knowledge Bowl Competition, Eyeing State Berth

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Comets Dominate in Knowledge Bowl Competition, Eyeing State Berth

Sportsing for the Brain--that’s what a Knowledge Bowl competition is all about. HLA has been blessed with not one, but three teams of mathletes, grammarians, and cognizaners who go head to head with top students from surrounding schools in an impassioned volley of wit matching. Tuesday the teams faced 37 other small groups of academics in an effort to move their teams to the regional competition.

The Knowledge Bowlers train hard before each competition, quizzing one another, parlaying with words and math terms and geographic points of interest to push themselves to the edges of their intellectual capacity. The day of competition they prep by doing some stretches to make sure there is ample blood supply to the brain, carb-loading and hydrating, so as not to experience the nasty distraction of stomach rumbling as the fray stretches often past lunchtime. Focus and speed are everything. Synapses must be firing optimally.

The pre-meet routine pays off for Hillcrest, carrying two teams into the regional competition on Tuesday, April 22nd after last Tuesday's sub-region meet. Thomas Martinson, Hans Frank-Holzner, Luke Bowman, Daniel Preston, and Jacob Steinle advanced with an eye-popping score of 111, a 21 point advantage over their closest competitor in the 40 team field.

There is strategy involved in Knowledge Bowl. The challenge is to hear just enough of the question to press the buzzer before your opponents, but not SO early as to have insufficient information to respond correctly. On Tuesday, Zakary Zwiers, Eric Konynenbelt, Shantanu Mallick, Danny Isaac, and Sam Ihrke were stumped when they buzzed in after the official asked, “What…” What, what? They deliberated tensely before offering, “Argentina?” Incorrect. The question was read in its entirety and correctly answered by Lucas Frank-Holzner, Matthew Lein, Reggie Undseth, and Sam Isaac. The latter team of upper classmen is moving to the regional competition, the 5th of the 5 teams from the 40 team competitor field moving to the next round. The former group of freshman missed beating their upperclass friendly foes by 1 point.

Hillcrest carries two teams to the regional meet for the second time in two years. Last year Hillcrest moved all three teams to the regional competition, transitioning one team to the state meet. Hillcrest looks hopeful in achieving another state berth, where the knowledge bowlers eye the April 13 and 14th state competition at Craguns resort.

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Comets Take 7 of the top 10 spots in 3 State Math Competition

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Comets Take 7 of the top 10 spots in 3 State Math Competition

Students from Hillcrest Lutheran Academy of Fergus Falls found great success at the 42nd annual Tri-College Mathematics Competition hosted by Minnesota State University–Moorhead on Wednesday, March 16. The three Hillcrest teams competing in the Senior High division (grades 11-12) for small schools took first, second, and fifth places. In the Beginning High School division (grades 9-10), a Hillcrest team took first place as well.

The Tri-College Competition is rotated each year between three colleges, NDSU in Fargo and Concordia and MSUM in Moorhead. This year, the tests were written by the Concordia math department. Many participating high school teams travel great distances to compete. Teams this year, for example, came from as far west as Bismarck and as far north as Kittson County (on the Canadian border). Over 40 schools and 80 or more eight-student teams competed at each level.

Hillcrest students also scored at the top individually. High School level: Anqi Wang (1st), Kelly Kim (2nd), Elaine Yi (3rd). Also in the top ten were Di Zhou, Joseph Ryu, J.J. Lee, and Sherry Xiao. At the Beginning High School level, Heejin Jeong placed 3rd and Eric Konynenbelt placed 4th. Although Hillcrest competed in the small school division, Hillcrest’s winning team at the High School level would have placed a close second to the first place team in the large school division, as they took the same test.

Hillcrest’s teams had an international flavor, consisting of American, Korean, Chinese, Russian, and Vietnamese students. HLA sent 46 students to the competition this year. 2016 marks the ninth year in the last ten that Hillcrest has won first place for small schools at the Senior High level. Brent Juliot and Steve Doering serve as advisors to the HLA math teams.

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President Steve Brue Announces Move to New Endeavor with Family

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President Steve Brue Announces Move to New Endeavor with Family

Rev. Steven J. Brue (’76), president of Hillcrest Lutheran Academy, is stepping down from the President’s Office effective June 30, 2016, to pursue a new endeavor with his family. 

“After prayerful consideration, I have submitted my letter of resignation to the HLA Board of Directors as President of Hillcrest Lutheran Academy….An opportunity has come to be directly involved with family in the Twin Cities area, which we knew would happen sooner or later. We’ve seen many doors open as we’ve trusted the Lord for the right timing to do this, and are very excited to begin this new venture, ” said Brue.

I have always been impressed with the dedication and quality of our faculty and staff. It has been a privilege for me to work with [them], as we’ve shared the mission of equipping students for a life of eternal significance.
— Steve Brue

Brue has served as President of Hillcrest Lutheran Academy (HLA) in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, since 2003, when Hillcrest was incorporated as a subsidiary of the Church of the Lutheran Brethren of America. Brue had previously served as Principal of Hillcrest Academy from 1998-2003, and had served as Campus Pastor from 1996-1998. Brue also taught as an Art Instructor at Hillcrest from 1983-1987. Brue served congregations of the Church of the Lutheran Brethren in Briarcliff Manor, NY, and Moorhead, MN, from 1987-1996.

Under Brue’s leadership, HLA experienced significant changes in both traditional and international enrollment numbers, including a 27-year relationship with the Danielsen School of Bergen Norway, which has brought over two dozen Norwegian students each year to Hillcrest. Like many boarding schools in the US, Hillcrest has enrolled growing numbers of international students from Asia, Europe, Africa, and Central and South America. There is a growing day school population, and the residential halls house over 100 boarding students. Brue has also led an expansion of the campus of the private, Christian, college preparatory school from the lone “Castle on the Hill” to a “Campus along the River.” Campus improvements and expansion include a Junior High, remodeled Girls’ and Boys’ Residential Halls, new Maintenance Shop, new Student Activities Center (commonly called the “new gym”), remodeled classroom wing, and a recently completed Student Union, including a new commercial kitchen, dining hall, and student commons.

Brue remarked, “I will remember these years of ministry with gratitude and thanksgiving to God. I have always been impressed with the dedication and quality of our faculty and staff. It has been a privilege for me to work with [them], as we’ve shared the mission of equipping students for a life of eternal significance. I remain very confident in Hillcrest’s current leadership team, and trust that the Lord will continue to use this school significantly for his glory.

I remain very confident in Hillcrest’s current leadership team, and trust that the Lord will continue to use this school significantly for his glory.
— Steve Brue

Brue earned a bachelor’s degree from Bethel College (St. Paul, MN, 1980), a master of Divinity from Lutheran Brethren Seminary (1986), and a master of science in education from the University of Minnesota, Moorhead (2006). Brue is married to Linda (Senum) Brue, a 1977 graduate of Hillcrest, and they have four children and five grandchildren.

Hillcrest Lutheran Academy, Grades 7-12, is a private Christian boarding and day school located in Fergus Falls, MN. Hillcrest was founded in 1916, and served as the high school department of Lutheran Brethren Schools until 2003, when it was incorporated as a separate school directly under the Church of the Lutheran Brethren, with its own president and school board.

Through the rigorous academic program, students at Hillcrest are directed to engage in the world through the various mission and study-and-mission programs offered. Hillcrest enrolls students from around the world and offers English as a second culture and ESL classes. Accelerated and advanced placement courses are offered to ensure that students are well prepared for post-secondary education. Over the past five years, 98 percent of Hillcrest students attend private and state Universities, colleges or world-mission organizations. Hillcrest Academy is accredited through the Minnesota Nonpublic Schools Accreditation Association, and is also an active member in the Minnesota Independent School Forum and the Association of Christian Schools International.

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Comets Take All Spots on Winners Platform at Knowledgebowl Contest

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Comets Take All Spots on Winners Platform at Knowledgebowl Contest

Hillcrest knowledgebowlers give fans something to cheer for. While many might think there is little cheering, or fans, at a knowledgebowl meet, Hillcrest brings their own flare. The first place Hillcrest team dominated, beating the next school by over twenty points in a clear showing of enthusiasm.

Hillcrest's first place team, known as Hillcrest Hunter, dominated the entire meet and set a benchmark for the state. Luke Bowman, Thomas Martinson, Hans Frank-Holzner, Daniel Preston, and Jacob Steinle sat at their table for the written round and pummeled opponents. A unique energy emerged from their table as they debated and mentally wrestled over questions. The cognitive sharpening was like iron on iron, revealing a score that dumbfounded coaches and opponents alike. Their 49 points earned in the written round propelled the five Juniors to first place, which they held for the entirety of the meet. The team cruised to defeat the next opponent by 15 points and the next school by 20 points.

The second place team goes by the name Hillcrest Hazel. Their written round performance placed them in the 4th place to start the oral rounds. As Matthew Lein, Lucas Frank-Holzner, Reggie Undseth, Sam Isaac, and Nate Larson pulled-up chairs to start the oral rounds they had their eyes set on the Hunter team. Through steady performances in the second and third rounds, Huckleberry moved into third place. In the final oral round Hazel remained consistent, using their steady performance throughout the day to remain four points ahead of the next team.

The greatest excitement of the day came from Hillcrest's third place team, who moved 13 places after the oral round to take 3rd place. Hillcrest Huckleberry, consisting of Zak Zwiers, Eric Konynenbelt, Danny Isaac, Sam Ihrke, and Shantanu Mallick, started the day in 16th place with a rough start. They scored a meager 27 points in the written round, while the other top four teams scored above 42. They went on to score 14, 15, 17, and 13 points in the next four oral rounds, standing heads taller than their competition in nearly every round. When the dust settled they were standing with medals next to Fergus Falls High School's top team.

Hillcrest's fourth team didn't have as much success, but enjoyed cheering on their friends who performed well throughout the day. The fourth team, known as Hillcrest Hay, scored 57 points through all rounds of competition. The team is made up of Sami Debates, Ellen Jacobs, Ashley Jarvi, Alexis Tungseth, and Molly Dirks.

Hillcrest continues their march through the regular season, looking forward to another push at the state competition as they continue to reflect exciting things happening in Hillcrest's classrooms.

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Preston Honored to Coach State's Top Team, Comets Close Season with 80-63 Loss

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Preston Honored to Coach State's Top Team, Comets Close Season with 80-63 Loss

Character shined bright Monday night in Moorhead as the top seed Hillcrest Academy went toe-to-toe with one of the state's most underrated and highest achieving teams. Through head coach Gregg Preston's leadership, the Hillcrest Academy coaches equipped a team that was unranked in the preseason to stand as the team to beat entering playoffs. The Comet's work ethic and personal maturity was on full display as they closed their season with an 80-63 playoff loss to Lake Park-Audubon.

As the Comets marched onto the court Monday night they hoped to continue to develop the definition of character, work habits, and unselfish play that Preston is bestowing on the 2015-16 Comet team. There was no shortage of excitement, with a packed gymnasium following the Comet road all season. Next to the Comet fans sat nearly the entire population of Lake Park and Audubon, Minnesota, riding a wave of 20+ straight wins that the Lake Park-Audubon (LPA) Raiders amassed after a slow start to their season.

A hush fell over the gym before the national anthem, that was quickly interrupted as the starting line-ups were called. From that point on a swell of voices flooded the gym as both LPA and Hillcrest put on one of the best shows in boy's basketball this season. 

After the opening tip Hillcrest resettled their feet. The new challenge facing the Comets presented as a 6'9" Junior, Jesse Bergh. The Junior post has one season of basketball under his belt, but ran the floor like it was second nature. Hillcrest placed Senior standout Chris Tungseth on the post, knowing that Chris' athleticism would force LPA to work hard for buckets in the paint.

Throughout much of the first half Hillcrest controlled the game. Leaping out to a 26-12 lead, the Comets displayed aggressive defense that forced LPA to regroup. Bergh struggled to get his feet for the Raiders, and Junior Mitch Hall went cold midway through the first half as the Comets worked up a comfortable lead. 

But the tables turned for the Comets as the clock neared the nine minute mark. A series of fouls put Hillcrest in double-bonus. With each aggressive defensive stand Hillcrest found themselves lining up to watch LPA shoot free throws. LPA hit 25 of 33 free throws before the final buzzer sounded. 

We had such a tremendous group of guys that overachieved on so many levels this year.
— Hillcrest Head Coach Gregg Preston

A main recipient of the foul calls was Senior Chris Tungseth, whose aggressive play felt muted, scoring 7 points on the night and sitting out much of the game with four fouls. With Chris in trouble, Junior Kyler Newman rose to the occasion, leading a Hillcrest drive with expert shooting and lane penetration. His offensive prowess put LPA on their heals as they called a time out to regroup with Hillcrest doubling their score. However, Newman soon found himself in foul trouble too, and a defensive switch saw LPA go on a scoring rampage as Hillcrest now found themselves reworking their scheme to keep key players in the game.

When the Comets emerged from the locker room following a halftime pep-talk, there was a new resolve on their faces. Junior Sean McGuire started things off for Hillcrest, hitting a 3-pointer in the first seconds of the second half. McGuire added 14 points to the Comet total, while Junior Kyler Newman fought to keep Hillcrest close, adding a game high 30 points to the Comet line.

Throughout the second half fouls remained a hurdle for the Comets. Senior Chris Tungseth sat down for much of the second half, waiting for the green light from Coach Preston after Tungseth earned his 4th foul. Newman, McGuire, Reggie Undseth, and Tommy Thompson worked the front court to keep Hillcrest close. The Junior line carried the mantle as their senior leader waited for an opportune to time to rejoin the game. Sophomore Nate Frustol stepped in to guard the 6'9" Bergh.

Frustol's work on Bergh was hard fought. The LPA stud fought over Frustol for 13 rebounds, as Newman and Thompson worked to attack the rim for the Comets and met Bergh, who earned 5 blocks.

In the waning minutes of the game Hillcrest instituted a smothering man-to-man defense. LPA stumbled, failing to regain control of the game in the subsequent minutes where Hillcrest earned quick buckets off timely steals. However, the Comets remained cold from behind the arc, and with LPA playing a near perfect game, Hillcrest struggled to surmount a formidable comeback.

LPA missed only four shots in the second half, shooting 83% from the field. The Raiders needed a perfect game, and for Hillcrest to have an off-night shooting, in order to pull out an upset of the undefeated Comets. 

With the final seconds ticking off the clock LPA found Bergh for an open court slam dunk. The snapping of the rim sent a shock wave through the stands as LPA's community cheered their team to victory. With players rushing on the court the Comets cooly walked to their bench. Lining up in classic fashion, the Comets congratulated LPA on a hard fought and nearly perfect game. 

The character, work habits, unselfishness, and the excitement by which they played the game and lived life together throughout this basketball year was an honor for me to be included in from start to finish
— Hillcrest Head Coach Gregg Preston

The Comet season closes with a host of records. Gregg Preston earned his 400th victory alongside Chris Tungseth setting the school single game scoring record and posting his 1000th point. The Comets moved from unranked to beat two top ten teams on their way to becoming one of the state's favored teams. They won two conferences and will likely post a number of players to the all conference and all section teams. None of the accolades seem to do this team justice, though. A clearly visible brotherhood developed for the Comets, who seem to enjoy garnering an assist rather than scoring a bucket on the court. The brotherhood was built around team devotions, which propelled the young men to lead their school. The boys were known to call out names in the locker room of people they were praying for, holding special gatherings with the girls basketball team where they shared appreciated attributes of individual players. The girls' team referred to the gatherings as, "warm fuzzies," found leaving the joint meetings boasting of how much they appreciate Hillcrest and the boy's basketball team.

Few will see the accolades the Comets boys aspired for. Leading a school in prayer and positive affirmation doesn't display well in a trophy case. But if the community could visit each of the Comet young men, they would realize that the trophy isn't what they played for. Joining together, building friendships that focused on Jesus Christ, is what they appreciate. Basketball was a tool for that. As Coach Gregg Preston stated in recalling the year, "We had such a tremendous group of guys that overachieved on so many levels this year.  The character, work habits, unselfishness, and the excitement by which they played the game and lived life together throughout this basketball year was an honor for me to be included in from start to finish."

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Comets Play Near Perfect in Overcoming 9 point Deficit for 17 Point Victory

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Comets Play Near Perfect in Overcoming 9 point Deficit for 17 Point Victory

Fans could read Coach Gregg Preston's face as he walked into the Comet huddle after one minute of play Saturday night. The scoreboard showed Underwood with 9 hard earned points. Hillcrest didn't have any. With the 9 point deficit staring at the Comets, Coach Gregg Preston appeared to ask his team what they were planning do now. This style of coaching has his Comets undefeated and a favorite to win State after their 72-55 victory following Preston's huddle antics.

Underwood showed up to Concordia with a lot to play for. The Rocket seniors are known for their athleticism, having earned state berths for football in recent years. Their final push together was in meeting the undefeated Comets in their plight for a state championship. With Underwood shooting 57% on the night, it was clear the Rockets were not going to roll over for Hillcrest.

Underwood forced some faltering steps for the Comets in their march to Williams Arena. Underwood coach Jesse Arbuckle played for Gregg Preston on a team that earned second place in Williams Arena. Now facing Preston, Arbuckle put together a game plan that forced fans for Hillcrest to wrench their shirts throughout the first half. 

Underwood worked to play up mismatches on the court, knowing the Comets were likely to force a few of their own. Rocket Senior Matt Biegler and Adam Thormodson fought for control of the paint, a place Hillcrest often establishes themselves early. Throughout the night both teams worked for second chances and to end offensive series under the rim. Hillcrest out-rebounded the Rockets by 6 when the final buzzer sounded.

When the teams entered the locker rooms at half time the score was 33-27. Underwood played some of their best Basketball in the season during their first half. Stiff defense forced Hillcrest to take shots that didn't fall. The Rockets keyed on Hillcrest senior Chris Tungseth, knowing him the center piece for Hillcrest and the sole person who can take over a game at will. However, Underwood's push of Tungseth into the paint with Biegler took Tungseth's game from the perimeter to the rim where he had a difficult time scoring. Tungseth shot a meager 31% on the night, finishing with 14 points and only making 2 of 6 free throws.

Anyone who knows Tungseth off the court realizes that the poor shooting night didn't phase his leadership for the Comets. The Senior stepped into a different role Saturday night, leading the Comets with assists and rebounds, pulling together a pair of steals as he urged his team to stand on his shoulders and put the game away. 

Sean McGuire was key in stepping up to Tungseth's step back. McGuire was big for Hillcrest, pulling down 7 rebounds as he and Tungseth fought for extra possessions under the rim. He also led the team in steals and gave out three assists. 

With the Comet big men holding back the wave of Underwood scoring, Hillcrest's guards stepped into a role they are accustomed to. Tommy Thompson displayed his iconic patience on the court, scoring 11 points on a number of pump fake follow ups where he forced defender to fly over his head as he reset for uncontested jump shots. 

In stride with Thompson was Kyler Newman. As Thompson forced defenders to fly from fakes, Newman soared to challenge the Rockets. Pulling in 14 points for Hillcrest, Newman used his stutter-step to perfection throughout the night. After the first wave of Rocket defenders picked themselves off the court, Newman breezed into the second wave where he left the court early and redirected his body on a number of occasions to earn highlight reel points. After attacking the basket a few times, Newman kept the Rockets off balance by dishing the ball to earn 8 points for Hillcrest off his 4 assists. 

With Hillcrest placing four players in double-digits, the game was decided most decisively on the defensive side of the floor. Hillcrest worked in unison to force Underwood to sit down as they fought to soar over the Comets. Quick hands and penetrating passing lanes earned Hillcrest 18 turnovers from Underwood. On the offensive side, Hillcrest continued their team play where their passing and cutting kept Underwood away. The Comets played near perfect Basketball, turning the ball over an eye-popping 2 times before the JV squad walked on the court in the final minute of play.

Coach Gregg Preston reported that his team played their best half of Basketball in the second half Saturday night. The complete team effort earned a second half scoring differential of 14 points over an Underwood team that played some of the best Basketball the North Section of 6A has seen in the tournament thus far. 

Hillcrest plays Lake Park-Audubon (LPA) Monday at 7pm at Concordia College in Moorhead. LPA is matching a 20 game win streak with the Comets 26-0 record. The winner plays the winner of Battle Lake and Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa at 7pm on Friday, March 4 at Concordia College, Moorhead. 

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Comets Eke out Win Against Tournament Ready Falcons

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Comets Eke out Win Against Tournament Ready Falcons

A steady drone of cheers followed Hillcrest to a win Thursday night against the Park Christian Falcons who played one of their best games of the season in a tournament atmosphere at Hillcrest Academy. The teams traded buckets and streaky scoring, entering half-time tied, giving many fans uncertainty of the outcome knowing anything can happen in tournament time. 

A sea of red crested against the stands with every Comet steal and 3-point attempt. With every rising moment the gym windows rattled at the sounds of fans, who made the gym atmosphere electric. With the opening tip going to Park Christian, and a quick bucket for the Falcons, it was clear that the teams second face-off was going to be entertaining. 

Park Christian stuck with Hillcrest throughout the night. A thirty-four-all tie was in favor of Park Christian with seconds remaining in the half. The teams stepped gingerly from 30, to 32, to 34 points with a minute before the half, battling for momentum going into the locker room. The tie gave both teams a chance to reset for the second half. Hillcrest desperately needed to reset the table.

The Comets struggled at times during the night. Park played with a smooth resolve on the court. Their team offense, with quick passing and boulder-like screens, gave the Falcons a sense of great ball control throughout the night, rendering a meager 7 steals for a Hillcrest team that is known for quick feet and breaking into passing lanes. Park's defense was difficult for the Comets to overcome, forcing 11 turnovers for a Comet team that traditionally has a better handle on the ball.

With a new 18 minutes on the court, Hillcrest jumped to control the second half of the game. Junior Sean McGuire posted 8 points for the Comets' in their first 3 possessions. McGuire soared through the air and pulled down important rebounds, grabbing 7 on the night, with timely shooting that earned him 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting.

Following McGuire, Kyler Newman stepped in to help redirect the undefeated Comets. Newman's quick hands and smothering defense earned him 5 steals, but also placed him in foul trouble as the game wore on. Newman turned his intensity from the defensive side of the court into offensive opportunities, taking many of his steals coast-to-coast in what looked like a layup clinic. Newman ended the game with 18 points, earning 5 points at the free throw line where he made 5-of-8.

Free throws proved to be a difference maker for Hillcrest, granting the Comets opportunities to adjust their game with sideline coaching while also putting points on the board. The Comets hit 11-of-15 from the free throw line, a 73% stat line that bolstered their work in taking over the game in the second half.

Chris Tungseth led the Comets in regaining control of the game, leading all scoring with 29 points. Taking the ball up the court on a number of possessions, Chris directed traffic and steadily implemented an offense that benefitted Hillcrest's shooting guards. Chris led the team with 4 assists.

Park Christian stayed step-for-step with the Comets coming down the stretch. At the 3 minute mark it was still anyones game. However, following a couple of strong defensive stands and some big shots falling for the Comets, Park Christian was unable to leap to the level Hillcrest brought the game. In the closing minutes Hillcrest's sharp shooting and collapsing defense put a 10 point margin in place that Park couldn't break through. When the buzzer sounded Hillcrest was on top by 14, 74-60.

Hillcrest plays Underwood Saturday at 6pm in Concordia as they continue their march in playoffs. The Comets remain undefeated, something they are looking to retain as they work to play in Williams arena in March. 

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Students Say Listening Staff Show Them Love and Build Confidence

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Students Say Listening Staff Show Them Love and Build Confidence

“I try to teach by talking as little as possible,” Mr. Garvin explained, sharing some of his thoughts on teaching. He said that by opening the class up to discussion he gives students a chance to state their opinions, ideas, and questions. Students in his classroom say he transmits respect to students, making them feel valued. 

It is very common to find other faculty at Hillcrest with Mr. Garvin's approach to the classroom. Mr. and Mrs. Preston, Mr. Peterson, Dawn Synstelien and Kendra Grothman were noted as a handful of teachers who listen well. These teachers are often found sitting at lunch or standing in front of a class with their mouth closed and eyes fixated on students who are sharing their thoughts, ideas, and questions. 

I try to teach by talking as little as possible
— Ryan Garvin

The classroom care and attention boils over to other aspects of Hillcrest. Some students find themselves waking early to meet over coffee and scones at Café 116. Seven girls, ranging in age, meet every Tuesday morning for a group they call The Breakfast Club. Freshman Paige Schultz says the group of girls has built and strengthened their friendships. She shares that the consistency in meeting and attendance of the group is what opens the door for strong relationships. Each week the girls share and process their lives together. Hard questions are asked and stories are told, forming a special bond by listening to each other, being interested in each other, and caring about what one another has to say.

It’s nice to have a safe place to have deep conversations.
— Karina Larson

Other areas of student life continue the classroom theme of care and respect at Hillcrest. Students walk across the parking lot from Hillcrest to Bethel on Wednesday nights to continue their faith training. “It's nice to have a safe place to have deep conversations," started Karina Larson, a Senior who attends one of Bethel's small groups. She explained that youth group is having a big impact on her Hillcrest experience. "Since it's the same girls every week it really has built relationships.” Every week the girls in her group share their high and lows of the past week, talking through the good and the bad with each other. Hillcrest dean Kendra Grothmann leads the small group, creating a place for students to share life with one another. The group bonds, listening to the struggles and the joys of their week, closing by sharing prayer requests.

Teachers, like Mr. Garvin, do the selfless act of listening by letting students do the talking. As small group meets every Wednesday, or breakfast club every Tuesday morning, these relationship aren't just about the talking but the listening, it is about letting the other know that they are valued. This type of listening the kind that isn’t required, the listening that takes patience, the selfless listening to a friend or a child. The kind that brings no benefit to the listener, the listening that has no room for pride. This is the listening that has a deep purpose, that carries the most power, leaves the biggest impact, and that changes lives. This is the type of listening the students at Hillcrest get to experience and learn from.

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Comets Finish Season Undefeated with Unique Off-Court Focus

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Comets Finish Season Undefeated with Unique Off-Court Focus

2016 is a record setting season for the Hillcrest Comets. Coach Gregg Preston earned his 400th win, their single game scoring record was defeated, they added another 1000 point scorer to their record books, and they are entering playoffs as a favorite in their section having finished the year undefeated with a 74-61 win in Ortonville.

There are likely to be tales told in coming years of the Comets' focus this season. Little things working behind the scenes have propelled an athletically average team in the State to a number 2 ranking across all Class A teams. Parent and Pastor Mark Tungseth is taking the Comets through the book of James for the teams' Bible study. The group has fortified around this study to care for the school they represent, hosting special team prayer times for friends in the school. They sought to encourage their girls' team this year, where each player selected a female basketball player to pray for throughout the season. During double-header games shared with the girls, the young men for the Comets told the ladies what they are praying for and specific character traits they appreciate in each of the girls. Coach Gregg Preston has spent some days more focused on how his team acts off the court than correcting their on court habits.

All of the extra work in the locker room and around prayer and the Bible has fortified the Comets to play some of the best team basketball in the State. Friday night was no exception. As Chris Tungseth emerged from the locker room as a clear focal point for Ortonville, a host of Juniors followed his footsteps, revealing a team that is multifaceted. 

Trailing behind Tungseth was Junior Sean McGuire. His consistent play is deceptive for many teams, where McGuire slips behind defenders and quietly shuffles his way to open spots on the court while Tungseth punishes the ball with his dribble. Laser passes from Tungseth to McGuire are a reversal from the football season, where McGuire puts in easy bunnies hits big time three pointers. Sean had 10 points on the night, while pulling down 8 rebounds.

Behind McGuire, a host of Comet guards walked out from the locker room. This is the strength of the Comets. Reggie Undseth, Kyler Newman, and Tommy Thompson each offer a unique presence on the court. Thompson brings a quiet confidence to the court, never looking rattled and always popping up quickly when he's been pushed or knocked down. His 13 points and 7 assists showed his value as the Comets' chief ball handler. Newman adds an off-beat attack that is hard to contain. He added 17 points on Friday night. Reggie Undseth is clearly one of the hardest workers for the Comets. His feet never stop moving and he is consistently where the action is on the basketball court. He added 11 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 steals to the Comet stat line for a complete game provided by a supporting cast of Juniors as Chris Tungseth looks to make one final run at a state title.

Tungseth put together 19 points with 6 rebounds for Hillcrest. His leadership is clearly seen as he gives insight to coaches on the bench and directs traffic while on the court. His scoring title, 1000 points, and now finishing the season undefeated is a fairytale story being written for the Senior who is hoping to continue playing Basketball with his close-knit team well into March.

The Comets start playoffs at 7pm on Thursday vs. either Rothsay or Park Christian at Hillcrest Academy.

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Tungseth Lays-In 1000th Point as Hillcrest Takes Conference in Rothsay

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Tungseth Lays-In 1000th Point as Hillcrest Takes Conference in Rothsay

Comet buckets come in bunches for Tungseth. The young man started the year for Hillcrest with strong statements, hitting 3-pointers that are 5 feet behind the line and dominating the paint with his quick jumping and smooth finish. But his finesse on the court is largely understated recently as the Comets continue their winning ways. Tungseth is allowing the team to develop around him, a clear example in the game he scored his 1000th point Tuesday, making a simple layup to achieve the benchmark as he walked off the court with a pedestrian 16 points.

Tungseth runs the court with a punishing style, beating the basketball to the ground as he dribbles, which positioned him as the Comet leader on the court. His style earned him a scoring title where he scored 44 points in front of a home crowd in January. But Tuesday night he watched his team jump out to a 55-16 lead in the first quarter and stepped into the background. Pulling down 5 defensive rebounds and giving out 3 assists, Tungseth set the tone for the game with his footwork, stealing the ball 4 times in the game. 

As Tungseth is watching his underclassmen friends step up, he cheered on fellow senior Jordan Foss in likely the most important game the Comets have played this season. Tungseth struggled versus Battle Lake, and his fellow senior Jordan Foss hit big time shots that have usually gone to Tungseth this season. Tuesday night Foss watched his team leader pull in a steal and sprint to an uncontested layup as Tungseth scored his 1000th point of his career at Hillcrest. The tandem senior leaders provide an incubator for the Comet underclassmen, who were on display in Tuesday's game following Tungseth's scoring accolade.

Kyler Newman is looking forward to the passing of the baton this year. After a big game in Battle Lake that proved the difference for the Comets, Newman put together a strong showing in Rothsay with 20 points. The Junior guard earned 17 of his points in the first half, where Hillcrest set the tone for the game with stifling defense. 

Reggie Undseth is at Newman's heels in the development of the Comet team that is making a run at state. The Junior defensive specialist hauled in 7 steals on the night, dishing 4 assists and pulling down 5 rebounds as he scored 10 points. Undseth and Newman are benefitting from Tungseth's unselfish leadership, evident in the team earning 18 assists on the night.

Hillcrest's Junior class is waiting in the wings, bolstering a strong lineup of young men who play hard and know how to fulfill their roles. The Comets stole the ball 21 times on the night, pulling down 28 rebounds in a completely dominant game. Juniors Tommy Thompson and Sean McGuire are looking forward to more games in March, after they scored 10 and 8 points respectively while the Comets entered a defensive shut-down game plan in the second half. Where Hillcrest emerged with 55 points to start the final period, they ended the night by only adding 21 more before the final buzzer. They held Rothsay to a meager 9 points in the second half, a feat rarely seen in high school sports.

As the Comets look forward to playoffs they know players like Nate Frustol and Sean McGuire will be integral. The Comet backcourt dominates games with Tungseth and Newman clearly holding an athletic advantage over every team Hillcrest played this year. However, the front court battles for rebounds is proving to be a hallmark of Hillcrest wins, and Frustol and McGuire quietly pull in boards and march down the court as they complete their important, but less celebrated tasks for their undefeated team that is holding out hope for a perfect season.

Hillcrest travels to Ortonville on Friday in closing the season. They look forward to their first playoff game next Thursday.

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Students Build More Than Faith in Bible Studies

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Students Build More Than Faith in Bible Studies

Every Monday seven girls follow their dean, Kendra Grothmann, to the Viking Cafe. Peggy, a waitress who always wears shorts, greets them with a smile, sometimes shouting a greeting to the group over the booths of old men sipping coffee and turning pages in yesterday's papers. The girls pull up worn chairs and set their Bibles next to menus as they open notebooks and flip pages in their Bibles to the book of Esther. The group builds confidence in their faith as they open their Bibles in public, reading God’s word aloud.

Being apart of this study myself, I have become more confident and encouraged in my faith. It is more than just a Bible study. We admire Esther as we study the reality of a strong woman surrounded by powerful men. The book of Esther communicates extreme faith and trust in the Lord, but for many in the study they admire Esther's confidence amidst the many hardships that were thrown into her life.

Friendships made in God are friendships made to last a lifetime
— Tara Fercrenzy

Our group notes that Esther’s faith caused her to look outwardly towards the Jews. In reflecting on the story, we see that God’s word causes us to think outwardly about others. As the last cups of coffee are filled and the checks arrive, we ask each other, “Who am I going to bless this week?”

“We wanted not just to encourage each other in our words and actions,”  Faith Tonneson started saying, speaking of her Monday morning Bible study. “But encourage each other by reading God’s word together.” 

 

In the boys dorm, Erick Sede, one of the boys deans, shared how God is using his love for his brothers in Christ to teach God’s word in the dorm. Every night after curfew Erick leads a discussion-based small group on a devotional by Josh Mcdowell. “Right now I am mentoring them. Later on, the students can do that by themselves,” Erick said, describing the training he’s giving students in leading small groups. Erick teaches by example, sharing his goals for the group. He is encouraging the boys to lead their own groups as a result of attending his small group.

Erick opens up the small group to everyone. He shared, “There is always at least one new person who shows up each week.” His heart goes out towards those students who attend the small group and never heard about Christianity and the Bible before.

Students in Erick’s study go out of their way to spend time together, much like the group meeting at the Viking Cafe. Whether students put down the pencil and turn off their desk lamps, leaving homework on the table to study the Bible with Erick; or students wake up to a 6am alarm to meet in the Viking Cafe, God’s word is unifying. Tara Ferenczy, one of the girls meeting at the Viking Cafe Monday mornings said, “Friendships made in God are friendships made to last a lifetime”.

 

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