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Students who study the way money works were undeterred by quarantine in taking state title

Members of the state championship Wilson Economics team: upper left Joshua Bromley, upper right Emma Koontz,, lower left Ori Friesen and lower right Nathaniel NelsonA team of Wilson High School students brought home an Oregon state championship despite COVID-19 dealing a TKO, or technical knock-out, to most interscholastic competition.

Four Wilson students who competed as a team to be number one in Economics brought home the cup on Saturday May 9. Seniors, Joshua Bromley, Emma Koontz, Nathaniel Nelson and junior, Ori Friesen outperformed 15 teams from the rest of Oregon on a series of tests during March.

With their hard-fought victory they advanced to the semi-finals in the National Economic Challenge where they faced the best young economists from the western United States. Wilson's financial four missed a chance to make the eight-team finals, but at least one of them, Friesen, will be back next year.

Persistence despite the pandemic quarantine paid off. Thirty teams were originally signed up to compete but half of them dropped out. Wilson sent three teams to the competition. Besides their classmates, the top Wilson team beat both teams from Lake Oswego and the team from Ashland.

The game of competitive economics is comprised of a series of tests given to teams of four students. They face 15 multiple-choice questions and one essay question about microeconomics, macroeconomics, international economics and current events. The team with the best results advances.

"One question was about a 15-year long case (pitting) the United States against the European Union over Airbus subsidies. This was a difficult question because it was such a specific event and I didn't know anything about it," recalled Friesen in an email.

"To be honest," wrote Koontz, "I don't remember most of them. But there was a question about the progressivity of taxes that I remember being difficult."

She was the driving force behind Wilson entering the statewide economics competition, according to the team coach and Wilson economics teacher Josh Winicki.

"This year Emma approached me (about entering the competition) which nudged me to push for it in class. I gave the class time to form teams. They've been working all year long, meeting during lunch to review material and study old competition material," Winicki wrote. Two other teams from Wilson also competed for the state championship, with one of them finishing third.

Koontz says the teams owes its state championship to Winicki. "He always made economics relevant and accessible to us, whether by explaining the decrease in marginal utility… or explaining why supply is upward sloping by polling us on our willingness to mow lawns. So when I learned about the challenge, competing seemed like an obvious way to maximize utility," she wrote.

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