Jamestown High School graduates return to compete in National LifeSmarts Championship and the team wins

This was the first time in JHS history that a team won the national championship.

lifesmarts champions
The Jamestown High School 2020 LifeSmarts team won the national championship on Monday, April 19. The event was postponed to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Jamestown team had won the North Dakota LifeSmarts to advance to the national event, which was held virtually. The four team members are, from left, Jessie Paulson, Chris Sayler, Jarron Larson, captain, and Garret Wright. Kathy Steiner / The Sun

It was a long time coming but it was worth the wait.

The Jamestown High School LifeSmarts team from 2020 won the National LifeSmarts Championship on Monday, the first time in JHS history that one of its teams won the event.

The last time a JHS team came that close in the national competition was in 2010 when it placed second, said Marchel Krieger, the coach for the team.

“It was an excellent display of teamwork,” Krieger said. “Everybody contributed to their strengths and that helped the team.”

The JHS team represented North Dakota at the event as the state champion from 2020.


“The teams that traditionally are always at the top, they were all there,” Krieger said of the competition. More than 30 teams competed; not all states have LifeSmarts programs, he said.

LifeSmarts is a consumer education competition that challenges teens in grades 9-12 about personal finance, health and safety, the environment, technology and consumer rights and responsibilities. It is a program of the National Consumers League.

The championship was a virtual event, starting on Saturday and continuing through Monday. The four-member team of Jessie Paulson, Chris Sayler, Garret Wright and Jarron Larson, captain, won the semifinals over Rhode Island with a score of 175-150 before defeating Pennsylvania 170-150.

In both rounds Monday, the team had been down before coming out on top, Krieger said. In the championship round, the team was down by 50 points before coming back for the win.

“It’s been kind of a grueling past three days,” Sayler said.

The final question that gave JHS the win was “If you’re taking out a loan, why is it important to check your credit report first?” The answer: to check for errors in the report.

The team was supposed to compete at the national event in 2020. But the coronavirus pandemic put a halt to the event and the national LifeSmarts decided that the teams could compete in 2021. The plan was to have the event in Cincinnati but the event went virtual instead.

By then, three members of the team - Paulson, Sayler and Larson - had graduated from high school and moved on to Concordia College, the University of Jamestown and North Dakota State University, respectively.


But that wasn’t too far to come back and compete over Zoom at the 2020 National LifeSmarts Championship from Krieger’s classroom at JHS.

“It was super (to win) because we’re been preparing for a long time and it’s great to finally actually have the competition and come out on top,” Larson said.

Paulson said the win didn’t sink in right away. She said it was important to the team to make the effort and to come back for the competition.

“It’s crazy to believe that a year ago this all got postponed and we had to wait a whole entire year to come back and actually compete,” Sayler said. “Especially coming from college.”

Wright, a senior at JHS, is still competing in LifeSmarts and is on the current JHS team.

“I still practiced regularly because I was preparing for the 2021 state (LifeSmarts competition),” he said.

That wasn’t the case with the others.

“We did have a couple practice sessions this year for the competition but a lot of that stuff kind of stays with you because it’s stuff you might use later in life, knowing government agency names, consumer knowledge, personal finance knowledge and technology knowledge,” Larson said.


The teams that the JHS team defeated Monday have won the national championships for the last four years, Krieger noted.

“It was nice to finally take the win home for North Dakota,” Sayler said.

One part of the competition is individual assessments where the students get questions on their own strengths, Krieger said, and in that event, Wright was named national champion in consumer rights and Larson national champion in technology. They were two of only five national individual assessment champions.

“That’s pretty good,” Krieger said. “We’ve never done that before either.”

Wright and Larson will each receive a $500 scholarship for the honor. The team win comes with a $1,500 scholarship for each of the JHS team members.

“The students and staff who represented JHS within the LifeSmarts national championship should be proud of their accomplishments,” said Adam Gehlhar, JHS principal. “Their knowledge in personal finance, health and safety, technology, the environment, and consumer rights and responsibilities is a great reflection of what they have learned as students and citizens within our community. Their hard work, early mornings and afterschool time and preparation paid off and is a great accomplishment we are all very proud of.”

North Dakota was the only state that had a live LifeSmarts competition this year, Krieger said. The 2021 JHS team lost that competition by one question, he said.

Since 2010, Jamestown High School has won the state championship 10 times out of the 12 possible.

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