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Little Falls wins National Economics Challenge Championship

As if images and memories from the sights and sounds of an all-expense paid trip to New York City from May 18-20 weren’t enough for Little Falls High School seniors Derek Toso, Caleb Hardekopf, Adam Grams and Michael Borders, they brought back some championship hardware, too.

Members of the Little Falls economics team, the seniors along with coach Tom Stockard were crowned national champions of the 2012 National Economics Challenge hosted by the Council for Economic Education, defeating Carmel, Ind., in the final buzzer round, 15-4.

“It’s something very exciting for us because of all the time that’s involved in preparing (for nationals),” said Stockard, who also led the Little Falls team to a national championship in 2009. “It’s especially exciting because along with the dedication and diligence, it’s a great reward for a small public school in central Minnesota like us.

“A lot of the schools that compete and make it to national’s are private, bigger schools, so it means a bit more that we were able to do it.”

Competing in the David Ricardo division — a division for teams of students enrolled in one-semester or less of general economics courses ­— Little Falls was just one of four teams across the U.S. to reach the national competition, moving through state and national semi-finals before the large scale event.

In a head-to-head competition against Carmel, Stockard said Little Falls tackled three rounds of written exams on microeconomics and macroeconomics along with an international economics exam. Next was three rounds of critical thinking, where teams were given 20 minutes to solve a problem and apply economic concepts. Students were then required to develop a presentation for judges before the critical buzzer round.

If that wasn’t enough pressure with a championship on the line, the event was streamed live, upping the ante, according to Stockard.

“It’s a very high pressure competition and puts the students under a lot of stress,” said Stockard. “(Derek) Toso said he probably put in at least 100 hours of preparation for this championship challenge so the kids are aware of the pressure on them in the competition.

“To add stress was the fact that this was the first year they broadcast the event. Usually it tends to be pretty informal but this year with the cameras and presentation the kids definitely felt the added pressure.”

But the team can rest easy alongside its championship trophy; at least until next year where Stockard said both Toso and Hardekopf plan to study and major in economics in college.

“College economics will probably add some more pressure and new challenges for those two,” Stockard said. “But I am sure they will do great there, too.”

JESSI PIERCE, staff writer, may be reached at 855-5859 or Follow her on Twitter at (@jessi_pierce