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Badger Robotics clinches state title, GMR finishes third

Greenbush-Middle River Robotics drive team member and human player Max Utter sits next to game panels and looks up at the Williams Arena big screen during qualification rounds at the Minnesota State High School League State Robotics Tournament on May 18. The GMR team finished 6-2 and with the top ranking among the 36 competing teams following qualification rounds and ended the playoffs rounds with a third place state team finish. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

Shedding tears, Jordan Scharf hugs a fellow Badger Robotics team member while celebrating the team’s state championship on the Williams Arena floor. The Badger team’s state champion alliance also included a team from Warroad and a team from Frazee-Vergas. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

The Badger robotics team poses with its state champion trophy and banner following action at the Minnesota State High School League State Tournament on May 18 at Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota campus. As far as the team’s Head Coach Valerie Truscinski knows, this is the first state team championship in the school’s history. The team members present are (L-R): Front: Jordan Scharf, Brooke VonEnde, Jasmyn Rud, Jack Burkel, Kennedy Truscinski and Aulona Jasiqi; Back: Jandi VonEnde, Hannah Rud, Olivia Hamann, Jasmine Christianson, Lucca Tonetto, Talon Hilligas, Avdyl Jasiqi, Alex Truscinski, Alan Truscinski and Valerie Truscinski. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

The Badger Robotics drive team huddled together after its state finals tie-breaker match came to an end, but the official final score had not yet been posted on the big screen at Williams Arena.

“We were all standing there in a circle, hugging each other and just saying, ‘Hope for the best,’” said Avdyl Jasiqi, a member of the Badger drive team part of this huddle.

The team broke out into hugs, smiles, tears, and screams moments later when the score was revealed. The Badger alliance– made up also of alliance captain, F.R.E.D. out of Warroad, and Kaotic Robotics out of Frazee-Vergas– had won 90-75 to capture the Minnesota state title following action at the Minnesota State High School League State Robotics Tournament on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis on May 18.

Another member of that Badger drive team also part of this huddle, Kennedy Truscinski described the emotions leading up to and after that final score was revealed.

“My whole drive team we were all hugging (in the huddle), just hoping that we could maybe finally get this state championship that we’ve been working so hard for,” Truscinski said. “… We knew we could do it. We just had to work hard for it, and as soon as we saw that (scoreboard) we were all just so excited and happy and full of all kinds of different emotions.”

Also competing at this state tournament, the Greenbush-Middle River team would fall in a tie-breaker match in the semifinals, but still went on to earn state hardware, securing a third place team finish.

As far as Badger Robotics Head Coach Val Truscinski knew, this win represented the first team state title in the school’s history. Coach Truscinski expressed how proud she was of what her team accomplished. She also described her feelings when she saw that final score on the Williams Arena big screen.

“It just seems so unreal, so surreal. It’s been a great season for us. I just can’t believe this just happened,” Coach Truscinski said.

This victory capped a season of success for the Badger program. During this 2019 season, Badger Robotics won two regional titles– the first regional titles the program had ever won– and advanced to the World Championship for the second time in program history. At the World Championship in Detroit, the team advanced to the finals of the Carson Sub-Division. It was a special season for her team.

“Last year was a building year and this year everything just came together,” Coach Truscinski said. “We’ve got great kids on the build team. We’ve got great kids in the computer lab working on awards, and marketing, and sponsorship, and safety. It takes everybody. It’s not just about the robot.”

Badger team driver Jack Burkel also commented on this state title and successful season.

“It’s honestly indescribeable how amazing that felt,” Burkel said about looking up at that scoreboard. “…We’ve never had any years like this in robotics, even before I was even in it, where we were this successful in a year… The fact that we’re even here is amazing in itself.”

Despite falling short of a state title, the GMR team ended its state tournament with a victory, this one an 89-50 victory over the third ranked alliance to earn third place honors.

“It meant a lot for us to finish in third place… I mean it’s incredible to just be in the top four in itself and ranking first in the end also is a huge accomplishment by us– ranking first at all four of the competitions that we’ve been to so far,” GMR team driver Ryan Hlucny said. “And then getting third place might not have been the ideal solution, but I’m very happy with how we did still.”

GMR Coach Mary Anderson also was more than pleased with how her team performed. It finished third out of 222 robotics teams in the state– an accomplishment she called amazing.

“How can you be disappointed being in the top three alliances? It’s just a wonderful experience,” Coach Anderson said, “and I think it shows the depth of our team in that we’ve come this far and we still can come back and do a very good job. So I’m very proud of them.”

The GMR team also expressed how happy they were for the Badger team and its fellow alliance partners on its state title.

“I’m happy for the whole alliance that won (the state title). You have Badger, who has never won a (state) championship ever in anything, you have Warroad, who won two years ago, and they’re both from Roseau County, and you have Frazee, who is a small town,” Coach Anderson said. “We took (home) the first and the third (place) alliance, bringing them to northwest Minnesota again. How can you not be proud and happy and everything else.”

Speaking of both team’s successes, Superintendent of both the Badger and Greenbush-Middle River schools Tom Jerome was on hand to watch his schools both finish in the top three at state. As a MSHSL representative, he had the opportunity to hug, shake hands, and award medals to the individuals on each team during the awards ceremony. He couldn’t be prouder of his two schools.

“I could not be more proud of our kids, more thankful for our mentors, volunteers, sponsors,” Jerome said. “But to try to put it into words the level of pride and joy I feel for our communities and our school districts, I could not be happier for them and I’m so proud of every kid, every student that’s part of our small schools.”

To see the complete story, read the May 22 issue of The Tribune in print or online.

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