Given the condition’s rarity, it’s unlikely an average person knows much about Guillain-Barre syndrome, but the students on Team South Dakota are not average—they’re national champions.
By correctly answering a question about the uncommon neurological disorder in the final round, Team South Dakota defeated nine teams at the National Athletic Trainers’ Association Student Quiz Bowl at June’s NATA convention in Las Vegas.
“I thought this was fantastic exposure for our district and South Dakota as a whole,” said Trevor Roiger, athletic training program director at South Dakota State University. “South Dakota athletic training programs continually graduate knowledgeable, well-qualified athletic trainers, so while winning the national quiz bowl was not necessarily expected, it was not a complete surprise either.”
Roiger advised the team roster of Kaitlin Reece, SDSU; Maria Koenen, Dakota Wesleyan University; and Krystle Schweers, Presentation College.
Reece joined the team as a way to study for her board of certification exam, so coming out of the experience with a national title was an unexpected outcome.
“Winning was truly a surreal moment,” said Reece, a graduate student from Valentine, Nebraska. “We knew we were capable of doing well, but being national champions—we were all in a little bit of shock and beyond excited.”
However, the national competition wasn’t Team South Dakota’s only victory this year. To qualify for nationals, the team had to win its district competition at the Mid-America Athletic Trainers’ Association conference in March.
There, Team South Dakota defeated 14 teams representing universities across Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota to earn the right to represent District 5 in Las Vegas.
According to Reece, a team of students from different universities isn’t standard and she had a bit of apprehension about competing with people outside of the SDSU program.
“I wasn't sure at first, but it turned out to be really cool that we represented more than one school and how our educations stacked up.” Reece said. “This experience was incredible, and the friendships will last a lifetime. I couldn't be happier to have represented our district at a national level with Krystle and Maria. It was great to share this victory with them.”
Before June’s win, the best finish by a South Dakota team at the national competition was seventh place. This year’s team set a goal of besting that mark, aiming for a modest sixth-place finish.
Entering the final round in second place, Reece, Koenen and Schweers wagered all their points—a gamble that earned them the win with a correct response.
“All three girls did a fantastic job representing their institutions and South Dakota with class,” Roiger said. “It was fun to watch them enjoy the moment on a national stage and I know they have successful futures in front of them.”