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Clark Fork Makes a Mark at State

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Clark Fork Jr/Sr High School's Aca Deca and TSA teams come back from state competition as winners.


The sound of sirens from the SamOwen Fire District truck announced to the small town of Clark Fork that its 13 academic athletes were returning from state competition in first place for small schools, and carrying a slew of medals. Hastily lettered signs, balloons, honking car horns and well-wishers from the community greeted the baker’s dozen athletes and their coach, Chandra Martz, as they stepped off the bus at this high school in the shadow of Antelope Mountain. "When the siren started going off on the fire truck, we thought there was a fire," said Martz of the display of support. "Then we saw the signs coming into town and realized it was leading us and that following were a bunch of cars, all honking their horns. It was really wonderful, and the kids were psyched."

The students had much to be excited about as they stepped from the bus proudly displaying their first place trophy, earned by amassing 31,972 points in the competition, outperforming their competitors. They also took first place in the Super Quiz, with the topic "the Civil War."

There was less fanfare, but no less pride when students in the Technology Student Association trickled back in their private vehicles from their competition in Boise carrying four bronze medals in recognition of their achievements.

The Academic Decathlon competition, in addition to the Super Quiz, involves six subject areas, plus three communication events - Speech, Interview and Essay. Students compete not only within their school division - Clark Fork, with less than 100 students in high school, competes in the small schools division - but within three categories based on each student’s grade point average. The Honors category includes students with a GPA of 3.75 to 4.0, the Scholastic category includes students with GPAs of 3.0 to 3.749 and students with a GPA under 3.0 compete in the Varsity category.

Senior Tessa Wilder left the state meet holding a gold medal in the Scholastic category for first overall - outperforming all other Scholastic competitors by total score. In addition to the medal, she received a $300 scholarship.

Junior Hanna Hurt also took home a gold medal and a $300 scholarship, winning overall in the Varsity category. Other overall winners included junior Stetson McElhaney, with a bronze in Varsity, and sophomore Bryce Bare, a bronze winner in the Scholastic category. "To get overall medals is insanely hard," said Martz, "and this year we took home four. That’s really awesome."

Senior Megan Hess was also honored when her speech was selected for the Speech Showcase, a group of award-winning speeches that will be given at the annual Idaho Academic Decathlon dinner. Megan’s speech was chosen out of 350 entries.

In fact, Clark Fork’s Varsity team swept the competition in speech, with Hanna Hurt taking first, Stetson McElhaney taking second, and junior Brittny Yates taking third. In the Honors category, junior Bailey Hewitt took the gold and senior Steven Thibault took home the bronze. Sophomore Jessica Cope took gold in the Scholastic category.

Another sweep took place in music, even though Clark Fork has no formal music program at the school beyond its small band class. In the Scholastic category, sophomore Bryce Bare took gold, Tessa Wilder took silver, and senior Brian Baugh took bronze.

Seniors Brenda Davisson and Megan Hess shared the gold medal for Interview in the Honors category. Other gold medal winners from Clark Fork included Tessa Wilder (Interview and Art in the Scholastic category), and Hanna Hurt (Interview/Honors).

All 13 of Clark Fork’s academic athletes medaled at state. "Every person on our team medaled in at least one event," Martz said with a smile. "You should have seen us at the award dinner. We were so happy." In all, those 13 students brought home 30 medals from the meet.

Clark Fork’s students will now move on to the national competition which, as a small school, will take place online. Students will compete in the essay on April 17, and in the testing portion on May 1 and 2. "It’s a great honor for us to represent Idaho at Nationals," said Martz.

Sandpoint High School, who shared a bus with Clark Fork for travel to and from the airport, took second place overall in the Big School category, earning 43,000 points in state competition.

The Technology Student Association, a national organization where students apply and integrate science, technology, engineering and mathematical concepts through co-curricular activities and competitive events, was chartered just last year at Clark Fork for both the junior and senior high levels. Ten students left Clark Fork for the state conference in Boise.

Eighth grader Tala Fehsel returned from Boise carrying two medals. Her first was in the CO2 Dragster racing competition, having created the fastest CO2-powered vehicle of the 29 entered in the competition. She medaled in the Flight Challenge as well, a competition for designing, building and launching balsa wood gliders, and keeping them aloft for the longest stretch of time.

Senior (and River Journal columnist) Thomas McMahon brought home his bronze medal for his architectural model of a low-income housing complex which utilized "green" architectural design and materials. And eighth grade student Dakodah Thompson created a computer-generated logo for all conference promotional materials, for which work he also received a bronze medal.

"The experience was much greater than the competition," wrote Gary Quinn, the instructor for all Clark Fork’s industrial technology classes. "I’m extremely proud of all students who attended the conference." Quinn’s classes are also currently constructing a new announcer’s stand for Clark Fork’s football field, and embrace fully his class philosophy of "work hard, play hard."

"I always talk about how proud I am of our kids, this staff, the school and this community as a whole," said Principal Phil Kemink. "We are capable of extraordinary things if we have a common vision and drive. In the time that I have been at Clark Fork I have asked the staff, and they have agreed, to push the kids academically so that we excel at academics as well as athletics. I always pose the question of how do you teach students to be intrinsically motivated. I believe that as a staff we are beginning to find the answer to that difficult question."

He added, "Individual student and school success leads to pride in yourself, your school and your community. As a community of educators, I believe that we are all students and become that which we portray ourselves to be. We know that we are strong and can all be very proud to be called Wampus Cats!"

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Landon Otis

Tagged as:

education, Lake Pend Oreille School District, Thomas McMahon, Clark Fork High School, Phil Kemink, Academic Decathlon, champions, Chandra Martz, Technology Student Association, Gary Quinn, Tessa Wilder, Hanna Hurt, Stetson McElhaney, Bryce Bare, Megan Hess, Brittny Yates, Bailey Hewitt, Steven Thibault, Jessica Cope, Brian Baugh, Brenda Davisson, Tala Fehsel, Dakodah Thompson

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