The Comets stood before a room of 100 of the region's smartest students with tints of red and blue reflecting on their smiles. The final awards of the day, marking the top places in the meet, carried Hillcrest's name which seemed to echo as the Comets took first place, with two other Hillcrest teams tying for second in the 20 team meet Tuesday.
Hillcrest's top team has been together the past two years and are consistently the team with the target on their back. Hans Holzner, Thomas Martinson, Daniel Preston, Luke Bowman, and Jake Steinle started the day huddling around their table diligently completing the written portion. Each has their own role in the team, with some quickly attacking the math questions while others chart maps of nations while remembering key facts about wars and civil conflicts. When their pencils rest, the team passes answer sheets, checking the work of teammates as they wrestle, argue, and defend answers like a band of brothers, always bickering on their way to producing a product that is tested and refined.
When the team handed their test in Tuesday they gingerly walked back to the team table, thinking about answers on their sheet. For the top team, the written round propelled them to the top room in the competition where they made themselves at home. Their initial score of 46 was six points better than any other school in the competition. Their lead would grow exponentially throughout the day.
Hillcrest's second team has their sights on their senior leaders, who they hope to pass at some point this season. Zak Zwiers, Eric Konynenbelt, Daniel Isaac, Sam Ihrke, and Shantanu Mallick joined the Senior team in the top room, down ten points but hopeful they could jump on the top team through the oral rounds as they shuffled their arms out of their jackets, pulled out chairs, and tested the buzzer strip on their table. They too would grow comfortable in the top room.
The third team Hillcrest placed in the top three has a chip on their shoulder. Reggie Undseth, Sam Isaac, and Sean McGuire are all top students in Hillcrest's 2017 senior class. They added Jack Nordick to their team this year as they bite, scratch, and pull their way through competition in hunt for their friends who are consistently placing in the top 10 teams in each meet. As they entered the top room for oral rounds they saw an eight point differential that they hoped to make up in the proceeding four oral rounds. The top team wouldn't have it, smiling in jest as they grimaced across the room at their fellow seniors who are representing Hillcrest well in regional knowledgebowl as of late.
When the dust settled on the first round, Hillcrest's top team dropped their arms by their side, letting them dangle as the stress of the oral round subsided and the point totals read revealed the top team with an 11 point margin over their closest competition. Hillcrest's second and third team bumped back a few places, tied for third and fourth places with other teams from the region in the top 20.
The second round bumped Hillcrest's top team to 81 points, a 20 point lead over every team in the field. Hillcrest's second and third place teams looked at the ground, shaking their heads as they bumped further down the list to the middle of the pack.
The third round proved pivotal for each Hillcrest team. The top team pulled ahead with an astonishing 24 point total, pushing them over the century mark with one full round of competition to go. Hillcrest's second and third teams pulled together a combined 23 points, bumping them from second and sixth places respectively to the fourth and third places before their final point earning opportunity.
As the fourth round started there was a strong look of determination on the face of the Hillcrest's students. The top team wanted to beat their best score ever, hoping to draw raised eyebrows from their coach, Mrs. Uggerud, whose twenty plus years of coaching knowledgebowl hadn't seen a team move beyond a 120 point total. The other two Hillcrest teams were looking to chase their counterparts to the podium, hoping to steal some points and step in front of their friends.
As the questions started flying no more than three words would leave the moderators mouth before a Hillcrest team would buzz in. They were all hungry for points. Huddling in unison, each team would deliberate the intent of the question, pulling together facts and ideas surrounding topics mentioned. When the final question was asked the point totals were tabulated. Hillcrest's top team shook hands in succession, congratulating each other on a well orchestrated team effort. Hillcrest second and third teams seemed to hold their breath for minutes, hoping to break the top three places and step on the toes of the top team.
As the points were totaled Hillcrest top team's eyes bulged. 130 points in a knowledgebowl meet is unheard of. Their execution of the written round put them on a path to hold a lead and scratch for points through the four oral rounds. Hillcrest's second and third teams were astonished to find that a half-point separated their two teams, placing the two teams in a tie for second place, according to the rules, finishing out a red and white Comet presentation on the winners podium as Hillcrest swept the competition.