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Cloquet seniors win state Economics Challenge

The four state championship members of the Cloquet High School Economics team credit teamwork, lots of studying, the tutelage of Coach Tim Prosen and the cooking of teammate Isaac Binn for a stellar performance at the state meet last Tuesday.

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Cloquet High School students and coaches celebrate their first-place finish at the state Economics Challenge April 7. Clockwise from left are Coach Tim Prosen (seated), Gabe Berg, Rachel Macaulay, Isaac Blinn and Christian Pritchett and student teacher Mike Lehmann. Contributed Photo

The four state championship members of the Cloquet High School Economics team credit teamwork, lots of studying, the tutelage of Coach Tim Prosen and the cooking of teammate Isaac Binn for a stellar performance at the state meet last Tuesday.

The fact that they are also on the same Knowledge Bowl team didn’t hurt either.

“That’s kind of our forte,” said Gabe Berg, explaining that the final round of the state competition was a quiz bowl round between the final two teams, Cloquet and Moorhead.

Gabe Berg, Isaac Blinn, Rachel Macaulay, and Christian Pritchett won the state champion title in the David Ricardo, or large school, division of the statewide Economics Challenge on April 7 at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Cloquet Senior High School last won the state title in 2010.

The four seniors earned their spots on the team based on their scores on the first test of the quarter in Prosen’s senior economics class.

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In a happy coincidence, the four were already used to working as a team.

Once they accepted the challenge, it was a matter of studying over lunch hours, in the evenings, anytime the four incredibly busy seniors - who are involved in various sports, theater, madrigals, mentoring, Junior Rotarians plus work - could find time to get together with Coach Prosen.

It helped that Binn, who plans to go to culinary school, took the snack money provided by the school and bought ingredients to make a range of home-cooked meals. Some of the highlights were crepes, pork shoulder, and homemade hot fudge sundaes for the team and coach, feeding both mind and body at the study sessions.

In addition to winning as a team, Binn and Macaulay also placed first and fourth, respectively, in the individual awards in their division for individual scores.

“I suppose there are meaningful economics and finance applications for culinary careers,” Blinn said with a grin.

Did the state meet hold any surprises for the Cloquet team?

“You realize how much you don’t know,” Pritchett said, explaining that the team didn’t feel terribly confident after taking the tests in the first round at state.

“I’m honestly a little surprised that we won,” Berg added.

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There was some strategy involved however, Binn said, explaining that the team knew how correct, incorrect and blank answers were scored.

“We decided three of us would answer very conservatively and one be very liberal with their answers,” he said.

“Being a team in the past definitely helped,” Pritchett added.

“We dominated that quiz bowl round something fierce,” Berg chimed in.

The team gave Prosen a lot of kudos.

“I think he’s the best coach,” Pritchett said. “He put in a lot of time and energy making sure we were as prepped as possible.”

Prosen, in turn, credited his wife, Sara, for making it possible for him to coach both the school’s economics team and its track team in the spring, as she holds down the fort at home with the couple’s three young boys.

“They’re a lot of fun to be around, the food is fun, but truly, when we sit down to study they really show up with a will to learn,” Prosen said. “We come into this competition with one quarter of Econ, against schools that have a lot more so we really have to advance quickly. We will sit for a couple hours straight at a time and they throw out questions. I just keep throwing additional resources at them, even the day after they won State,” he added, holding up a white binder filled with papers he gave the team when they returned from St. Paul last week.

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The team should know within a couple weeks if they will advance to the national championship competition. The four team seniors competed in the national semifinals during the school day on Tuesday, taking a test proctored by Cloquet High School Principal Warren Peterson.

Once the test results are known, the top four teams in the David Ricardo division will be invited to the national competition in New York City in May. Eight different Minnesota high schools have reached the final four at the national level, more than any other state. This is the first time Cloquet Senior High School has qualified for the national semi-finals.

Economics Challenge is held by the Minnesota Council on Economic Education and is sponsored by the Mosaic Company and the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. The competition provides an opportunity for students to demonstrate their economic knowledge. Over 70 teams from across Minnesota competed in the 2015 competition.

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Dressed in their Hawaiian day finery, Christian Pritchett (front to back), Isaac Blinn and Gabe Berg show the binders full of information they had to study as they prepared for first a regional then a state economics challenge, which they won. On Tuesday the trio and fourth team member Rachel Macaulay took yet another test to see if they can advance to the top four nationally and win a trip to compete in New York City. Jana Peterson.jpeterson@pineournal.com

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