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February 26, 2005

MSDB students place fourth at regional quiz competition

From: Great Falls Tribune - Great Falls,MT,USA - Feb 26, 2005

Tribune Staff Writer

You could call them the quiz show whiz kids.

Five students from the Montana School for the Deaf and the Blind returned recently from Salt Lake City where they grabbed fourth place out of 16 teams in Gallaudet University's Western Regional Academic Bowl for the Deaf.

"I felt really happy that we did so well against some really good teams," said Marissa Kelly, 17, a sophomore from Great Falls. "We worked hard and did better than any MSDB team had done before."

Two years ago, an MSDB team finished 13th at a Colorado Springs regional. Last year, another MSDB team advanced to eighth at a regional in Riverside, Calif.

William Linafelter, 14, of Great Falls, is eager to compete again next year and do even better.

"This was my first big competition, so it made me nervous," said Jessie Aguilar, 15, from Laurel. "But it turned out to be fun."

Senior captain Alexa Kohrt, 18, from Hobson, said MSDB members practiced at least 90 minutes a week since October for the mid-February competition.

Although the academic bowl format was much like the Jeopardy TV show, team members didn't bone up by watching quiz shows, said Justin Kauffman, 16, a sophomore from Kalispell.

Instead, coaches Jennifer Wasson, an MSDB teacher, and Jim Kelly, MSDB dean of students, revealed questions on a power point presentation and had the kids buzz in to answer, just as they would do in Salt Lake.

"We practiced with the buzzers a lot," Justin said. "But some kids on the other teams were really fast readers and buzzed in on answers we knew."

The school won a plaque, and all the students won medals. Alexa did especially well. She was chosen as one of the top three participants by the other competitors. The award was based partly on academic skills, but also on friendliness and sportsmanship.

"My favorite part was socializing with other deaf kids from around the West, including spending time together at an amusement park with a roller coaster," she said.

Marissa said it was fun to try new things in a larger city, including eating at the trendy Red Robin Restaurant and Hard Rock Café and watching a super-sized movie at an IMAX theater.

The students naturally came to specialize in different, overlapping quiz categories.

Alexa, who hopes to become a teacher of the deaf, was good at history, government and literature.

History, math and deaf studies were some of Jessie's favorite topics. She has several pets at home and would like to become a veterinarian.

Marissa, a volleyball and basketball player who might like to be a crime scene investigator like her heroes on television, did well in the sports and science categories.

Justin was good at art, literature and history questions. He has great memories of the exotic wild animals he saw in a Canadian zoo as a child and would like to become a zookeeper.

William was really good at doing the fast calculations for the math problems.

The MSDB Foundation paid for the team's trip.

Reach Tribune Staff Writer Peter Johnson at (406) 791-1476, (800) 438-6600 or

Originally published February 26, 2005

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