Anaconda High School students win statewide business challenge

From left, Logan Stetzner, Nikolas Russell, Mariah Brekke, Russell Biniek, Kyle Adams, Cooper Ignatian, and Jarrett Thompson pose for a photo in their business classroom at Anaconda High School. The students recently competed in the annual High School Business Challenge and Challenge Bowl, earning top places and scholarship money.

Simply put, Anaconda High School students dominated a statewide business competition on Tuesday. 

Eight teams represented the school in the recent Montana Chamber Foundation’s annual Challenge Bowl, a simulated competition that tests the business knowledge of high school students across the state. 

The Challenge Bowl features the top 16 groups out of some 200 teams that compete over the spring and fall semesters in the High School Business Challenge, a longer version of the bowl's simulated competition.

Anaconda teams came in first and third place in this year's Challenge Bowl. The first place bowl winners, Jarrett Thompson and Mariah Brekke, each received $1,000 scholarships. The third place winners, Madison Lodell and Lacey McGuire, each won $500 scholarships. Twelve other Anaconda competitors won $100 scholarships from the Montana Chamber Foundation. 

Kyle Adams, 17, summed up what it all meant: “Yeah, we’re the top dogs." 

The Montana Chamber Foundation, a nonprofit affiliate of the Montana Chamber of Commerce that aims to promote and improve economic development opportunities across the state, has been hosting the High School Business Challenge since 2000.

Each year, dozens of teams run their own mock businesses in high schools across Montana and virtually compete for the highest stock price for eight weeks during the spring and fall semesters.

Then, the top eight teams in each semester face off head-to-head in the hours-long spring Challenge Bowl, again competing for the highest stock price after completing four inputs, or business quarters. Winners earn scholarship money depending how high they place. 

The day after their strong showing, a handful of Anaconda business students looked back on the two challenges.

They said both the weeks-long and hours-long competitions can get pretty intense, but it’s different than a typical sports competition because you can’t see or interact face-to-face with your opponents.

The students also said it’s cool to run your own business and to see the effects of the different choices you make in real time.

“If I wanted to start my own company right now, I think I’d know how to do it,” said Cooper Ignatian, 17. “I’d recommend it (the high school business challenge) to other people because you learn a lot, and it’s fun.”

Russell Biniek, Anaconda High School’s business teacher and business challenge coach, said that’s the point of introducing his students’ to the challenge — to give them practical entrepreneurial experience and present them with real-world scenarios to solve.

“This is one of the ways kids can experience a career they may want to pursue out of high school,” Biniek said. “And we’ve had some of our students actually start their own businesses. … It translates into opportunities for kids.”

Biniek said he incorporates the High School Business Challenge simulation into his day-to-day business curriculum and that he has had teams compete in the annual challenge for the past four years.

When asked about this year’s notable success, Biniek credited the students’ hard work.

His students, on the other hand, gave credit for Anaconda's success to their teacher.

“He knows how to win the thing. We want to give a big shout out to him. … He’s the CEO,” Adams said of Biniek. “This wouldn’t happen in this school without him.”

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