DMS teams win top two spots at Academic Olympics

Dillon Middle School Academic Olympians celebrate around the first-place trophy they brought home from Bozeman last week. M.P. Regan photo


Teams from Dillon Middle School grabbed gold and silver at the Academic Olympics March 11 on the Montana State University campus in Bozeman.

The battle of the brains between 48 Montana middle school teams came down to a first-place showdown between two squads from Dillon, with the local team of Rhiannon Murdoch-Kalsta, Gabe Kirkley, Heidi Martin, Abbey Trang, Lindsay Huber and Trent Wahl earning the 38-28 win in the thrilling final that could have turned on a single question.

“When we made it to final round, with everybody watching, you definitely felt more pressure, but it was still pretty fun—and it made it more interesting going up against another team from Dillon,” said DMS eighth grader Austin Bockting, a member of the second-place team, along with Ray Shipman, Monika de los Rios, Sam Telling and Turner Sawyer.

“We knew what kind of questions they would be good at, so we were sort of hoping they wouldn’t get those,” laughed Bockting, who said he and his classmates practiced during every lunch period starting in December for the competition by fielding questions asked at previous competitions from DMS reading and gifted education teacher Ginny Waldorf.

Another team from Dillon consisting of Kyndall Peterson, Kia Coon, Sarah Griffin, Rachel Towery, Lucy Wright and Mariah Mosher also fared well in Bozeman.

Bockting led his schoolmates in the individual written exam competition by earning third place among eighth graders in southwest Montana in a field of 250 contestants, while Dillon’s Monika de los Rios took fourth for seventh graders.

Dillon placed five others in the top ten of the eighth grade written exam, with Ray Shipman finishing fourth, Heidi Martin placing fifth, Sam Telling and Gabe Kirkley taking sixth and Sarah Griffin notching a seventh-place finish.

In the oral team competition, the top two Dillon teams had to win five matchups with teams from other schools to reach the final, which lasted about a half hour.

A correct answer earned 5 points and a bonus question that could net your team another 5 points, while an incorrect one cost your team 2 points.

The written exam featured 100 questions on a wide range of academic topics that had to be answered within 45 minutes.

“They asked you about pretty much everything from literature to math,” said Bockting, whose mother, Melissa, works as a librarian at DMS and father, Kelly, serves as a wildlife biologist for the Bureau of Land Management.

“It was pretty hard.”