By Larry Kline
THEIR BRAIN POWER MAY HAVE GIVEN THEM THE CHANCE, BUT OLD-FASHIONED ELBOW GREASE WILL BE needed to get them there.
The half-dozen members of the KG Academic Challenge team and their two coaches were selected to represent Montana at the Panasonic Academic Challenge in Orlando, Fla., in June.
The team submitted applications, which included the members' grade-point averages, honors classes and awards. They learned of their selection at the end of March.
"They're the kind of kids that deserve to win this," coach Mandy Nitz said. "They work really hard in class, get good grades - they set high standards for themselves. They're a blast to be with, and I can't wait to go to Florida with them."
The group has some work cut out for it, however. The team members must raise $5,000 before taking the trip to Walt Disney World for the competition, held June 18-21. So far, they've raised $600 and have a $1,000 commitment from the student council to be used as needed, Nitz said. The team must raise half of the money by April 29 and the other $2,500 before the competition.
To raise money, the group has been selling Little Caesars pizza kits, working concessions and selling Mother's Day gifts. There will be a garage sale at Nitz's house in the 800 block of Fourth Avenue in Havre on April 29-30, and the group is planning a car wash in June, Nitz said.
The team is also soliciting donations from area residents and businesses.
"So far the businesses have been really generous with helping us out," Nitz said. "Everyone's been really happy for us."
At the competition, the squad will be asked a series of questions written by high school and college educators across the country. The students will be quizzed on math, science, language arts, social studies, fine arts, French, Spanish and technology. Members of the winning team will each be awarded a $2,500 scholarship. Second-place team members will receive $1,500 scholarships and third-place finishers will win $500 scholarships. Last year, 32 states and the District of Columbia sent representatives.
Nitz and coach Linda Lett started the team three years ago to give KG students another competitive option.
"We thought it would be a good opportunity for the kids," Lett said.
Nitz teaches English and biology, and Lett teaches social studies and art.
This year's team, consisting of seniors Drew Kapperud, Whitney Hanson and Sheree Haugen along with junior Cody Donoven, sophomore Kate Vosen and freshman Zack Rambo, traveled to Great Falls for two competitions this year. Nitz and Lett said the team often faces stiff competition from teams that have more time to prepare.
"It's very competitive," Nitz said. "I think at our school, it gives us some idea of what these kids actually know. Our kids are involved in so much. They play sports or they're on student council. We just don't have as much time to work on it as the other teams."
Lett said the team meets several times a week during the lunch hour to study and often hits the books on the way to a competition.
"There's always a little cramming on the bus," she said.
All of the team members expressed excitement at the opportunity to visit Florida and compete. Haugen is the only one who has visited the Sunshine State, and some members have never left Montana.
"I was pretty excited when I heard about it," Kapperud said. "It's going to be a new experience for sure."
He added that the group is grateful for donations but is willing to work for the trip.
"We're looking for community help, but we're willing to fund- raise as much as we can," Kapperud said.
He listed science as his favorite subject and said he plans to attend Montana State University-Bozeman next year to major in engineering.
Hanson, who called the trip "unreal," is also planning to attend MSU-Bozeman. She will major in art or music, she said. She added that the good relationships between team members aids them in competition.
"We're all really good friends," Hanson said.
Haugen joined the team this year because "it looked like fun." She is planning to major in pre-med at MSU-Bozeman next year. She said the competitions can be difficult at times.
"It's pretty nerve-wracking sometimes," Haugen said.
Rambo, who said his favorite subject is English, said the competitions are different than the kind he sees on the football field, basketball court or track.
"You've got to use your brain a whole lot more," he said.
Vosen joined the team after a teacher got her interested.
"It's fun, and I like the competition," she said.
Vosen doesn't have a favorite subject. She said she may decide to become a doctor some day.
Donoven said he likes being on the team because he enjoys competing against other schools. He hasn't decided on a college yet but knows he wants to stay in Montana for school.
When the team applied, each member had to write a short essay describing the most influential person in her or his life. Donoven, like many of his teammates, chose a family member - his father, Dallas.
"He's always working hard and he's always busy, but he finds the time to come support me," Donoven said.
Anyone who would like to support the KG team can do so by calling the school at 376-3183 or sending donations to P.O. Box 250, Gildford, MT 59525. Nitz also will accept donations of items for the garage sale.