Greenbush-Middle River Knowledge Bowl senior Olivia Brazier said she was shaking during the final 10 questions of her team’s Region meet on March 10. But then she did the math in her head, trying to figure out her team’s lead, and her mindset changed.
“That’s what kind of got me through is just figuring out in my head and being like, ‘Okay… teams in the second room would have to get this many points to beat us.’”
The GMR Gator Knowledge Bowl team would not be passed by these second room teams or first room teams. GMR defeated second place Bemidji by three and a half points to earn region champion honors for the first time since 1990, according to team estimates, and a trip to the virtual state meet on April 8.
“I was extremely proud of my team because last year, we just barely didn’t make it (to state),” Brazier said. “And this year, I mean, our goal was to get to state, but our biggest goal was to kind of improve from last year.”
GMR Knowledge Bowl team members and their coach Mara Gust discussed the reaction to placing first at regions and advancing to state, the factors behind the team’s success, COVID’s impact or lack of on its accomplishment, what they’re looking forward to most about the virtual state meet, and what they’ll remember most from this unique season.
The team also advanced to state for the first time since 2016. Team members on this year’s state-advancing, regional champion team include: seniors Christian Wahl, Ryan Hlucny, Mariah Christian, and Olivia Brazier, and sophomore Chance Christian.
Senior team member Mariah Christian described finding out her team finished first at regionals and advanced to state as a rewarding experience, especially considering how the day began during the written round.
“We did so well on the written test and the written round hadn’t really been our best this season,” Christian said. “So we did so well on that and that just (made us look at it as), ‘Okay guys we got this today.’”
Brazier referred to this moment as a “confidence booster” and added how the team’s strong performance in the first two rounds against some large schools also played a role.
Fellow senior team member Ryan Hlucny found the realization of first place finish to be a surprise. He explained how Bemidji would bring two or three teams to meets and many times finish the highest in the written round.
“I don’t think we really expected to just blow everyone out of the water like we did,” Hlucny said. “But we did really good and (I’m) pretty happy with how it turned out. I was hoping that we would make it to state, let alone be the champs of the region.”
Coach Mara Gust said her team was completely capable of making it to state, but did admit she was “plesantly surprised” her team finished first after struggling to finish in front of Bemidji during the regular season. Bemidji, Crookston and Bagley will join the GMR team from Regions 1 and 2 at the state meet.
Competing at the regional meet virtually in Gust’s GMR classroom, the team found out it won the regional event about 10 minutes after completing the final regional round. This announcement led to some dancing, Brazier said.
“I was kind of speechless to be honest,” Gust said.
As for the season as a whole and regardless of how state turns out, the team will take with them many memories.
“There are just so many traditions that we’ve developed over the season, like bringing chocolate to every meet,” Christian said, “and then we started dancing… in between all the rounds.”
Brazier explained how the dancing was helpful.
“(We danced) to get us energized and excited,” Brazier said. “It was always just so fun. When you’re in a good mood too, it helps a lot.”
Besides having chocolate and dancing, team members could also talk, laugh, and high five amongst one another— all activities they could not do in the more professional settings of the in-person meets in the past.
“At regular meets, it’s very businesslike,” Gust said. “There’s no food, no beverages, no talking.”
Despite these perks of going virtual, sophomore team member Chance Christian looks foward to going back to in-person meets.
Gust highlighted how “incredibly proud” she is of everything this team has accomplished, from its efforts early on to its regional championship.
“I remember our first practice in the digital format and it took us 45 minutes just to get everyone logged on and ready to go, and I was so exhausted,” Gust said. “And I told them all they did a great job, but in the back of my head I wondered if it was going to work at all. There were so many hurdles… They really just faced everything with such a positive attitude and worked so hard.”
It was this attitude, work ethic, and ability to adapt that led the team to not only push past Bemidji for the regional championship— a history-making moment for the program— but also advance to state to continue making even more chocolate and dance memories.
To see the complete story, read the April 7 issue of The Tribune in print or online.