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From left, Ryan Steffl, Nicholas Jones, Luke Wels and Phil Biedenbender make up the Minnesota Vallley Lutheran Onyx Knowledge Bowl team, which took first at regionals Thursday at the former Holy Rosary School in North Mankato.

As Minnesota Valley Lutheran senior Phil Biedenbender put it, preparation in Knowledge Bowl can only come from a lifetime of accumulating knowledge.

“You read from the day you were born,” he said.

Biedenbender and his fellow MVL Onyx teammates, seniors Luke Wels and Ryan Steffl, are pretty used to advancing to the state competition for Knowledge Bowl. As part of the same team for the past four years, they have made it to state each time. Their fourth teammate, sophomore Nicholas Jones, has less experience on the team but is still well aware of MVL’s Knowledge Bowl reputation.

After coming in first at the regional competition Thursday at Holy Rosary School in North Mankato, this is the 14th time Minnesota Valley Lutheran has gone to the state tournament, which is April 12-13 in Brainerd.

“You kind of get to expect it, but there’s always a little tension in there,” said coach Ron Wels.

Coming in first at regionals also is nothing new to the kids. How many times?

“Oh, numerous times,” said coach Heath Dobberpuhl.

“More than half of the time,” Wels added.

But judging by the fist bumps and the pleas to the coaches to celebrate at Dairy Queen, Thursday’s win still felt pretty good.

The four other teams in Region Nine that advanced to state were New Ulm (second); New Prague (third); St. Peter (fourth); and Montgomery-Lonsdale (fifth).

Knowledge Bowl is an interdisciplinary academic competition with teams of four to six students who answer questions in a written round and several oral rounds. No team is eliminated, and every team participates in every round.

Founded in 1979, Minnesota is home to one of the oldest Knowledge Bowl competitions in the country. More than 500 teams compete from across the state with 94 teams in south-central Minnesota.

Only 27 teams advance to regionals, and only five go to state.

This year the competition was tough, said Region Nine coordinator Betty Widmer Blace.

“We’ve had some strong contenders,” she said. “It’s pretty exciting.”

There isn’t much team Onyx can do to prepare for the state tournament in April. Like they said, the questions can be about anything, and you either know the answers or you don’t.

But Jones is already looking ahead to next year, when he’ll be the only team member of Onyx left after the other three go off to college. It may be up to him to mentor new teammates and make sure the MVL state streak goes unbroken.

The prospect, he said, is a bit nerve-wracking. But at least he’s got a year to hit the books.

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