By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
Jacob Brull takes the challenge of being captain of his scholars bowl team seriously.
So if he had a question about an answer given at Thursday's Class 3A regional meet at Thomas More Prep-Marian Junior-Senior High, he challenged the officials.
Win or lose, Brull was happy with the final outcome for his team.
Led by a senior-dominated squad, including Brull, TMP finished second at the meet to qualify for the 3A state meet Feb. 15 in Douglass.
TMP came within a question of keeping the championship trophy at home but lost a challenge, and a five-point match, with Gypsum-Southeast of Saline, which went undefeated in the finals.
The Monarchs, however, won their final match of the day -- despite losing a challenge question -- with longtime rival Norton, which finished third and also qualified for state.
Those were just two of numerous impressive performances by area teams, which were led by Russell's undefeated record on the day.
Russell, last year's 3A state runner-up, will return to state, but in another class after moving to 4A this year. The Broncos won all 11 of their matches to win its own 4A regional Thursday. Scott City was second and Clay Center, third, at that meet. The 4A state meet will be in DeSoto.
Hays High School had its 5A regional at Shawnee postponed because of bad weather and will head east Monday for competition.
It will be the fourth time in five years TMP will be represented at state, and the second straight trip for the group.
And Brull was on a mission to do everything he could to get his team back to the season finale.
"There's no reason not to challenge when (an answer) seems wrong," Brull said. "It doesn't take away from your score to challenge something, and if you can get the points, go for it."
Even though the matches are competitive, Brull said there are no hard feelings.
"A lot of what I love about scholars bowl is that we can have civil relationships with other teams," he said. "We have friendly rivalries, but these games don't come between us."
Now, Brull and classmates Rachel Becker, Ryan Hammerschmidt, Kayla Hockett and Justin Raynesford, along with junior Lucas Diehl, are headed to state again. Last year, the same squad also qualified for state but didn't make the finals.
"This year, I have high hopes (at state)," Brull said. "We want to make finals, place."
TMP coach Don Hageman wasn't so concerned about what place his team took Thursday, as long as it was one of the top three spots. He would like nothing better than for this group to bring home a state trophy, something the Monarchs did in both 2010 and '11 when they won back-to-back state titles.
"I told them to shoot for first (at regionals), and that would be great," Hageman said, "but you have to get in the top three to get another chance" at a state trophy.
The area had four other regional champions besides Russell.
Oakley won the 2A tournament at Leoti, where Oberlin-Decatur Community placed third to also qualify for next weekend's state meet at Moundridge.
Smith Center also will compete at Moundridge after winning the Class 2A meet at Inman, and two Class 1A meets were dominated by area teams.
Kensington-Thunder Ridge won the 1A Division I meet at Quinter, from which Stockton and Hoxie also qualified with their 2-3 finishes. The 1A-I state tournament will be at Satanta.
And Palco was the champion of 1A Division II tournament at Tribune, followed by Ransom-Western Plains and Grainfield/Wheatland-Grinnell.
The 1A-II state meet will be at Rolla, where Natoma also will be represented after finishing third at its own regional.