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DI team is first in world competition

History was made over the weekend by a team of Hudson Middle School students who took first-place honors at the global finals of the Destination Imagination.

Hudson students have been participating in the worldwide problem-solving competition for numerous years, but this is the first time any team has brought home a championship trophy from the world finals.

The team included eighth-graders Adam Selon, Ashley Anunson, David Sjoberg, Emily Kepulis, Sydney Malanaphy and Josh Kock-Fogarty. They were coached by Lana Sjoberg, David's mother, and assisted by Hudson DI team coordinator Liz Malanaphy, Sydney's mother. The team competed at the middle school level in the Cartoon Dimensions category against 64 other teams. More than 830 teams from elementary age to college and beyond came from 47 countries to compete in the DI Global Finals in Knoxville over the Memorial Day weekend.

The Hudson group imagined its skit then wrote it. The skit was a comical look at the mad-cow phenomenon. The group also designed the costumes, the props and created the required sound effects.

Each skit is judged on its storyline, creative use of materials and overall appearance. It must also include turning a two-dimension prop into something three-dimensional and the use of a cartoon animation cell in some fashion. The total cost of all props and costumes must not exceed $100, and the skit can run no longer than eight minutes. The cost of props wasn't too bad since the "mad cow" centerpiece of the skit had a head made entirely of dairy products and a body constructed of grocery store meat trays. Timing wasn't a problem either, since the judges admitting that they didn't keep too close an eye on the clock. They were laughing too hard.

The team made the trip on a chartered bus and stopped to pick up a team from Lake Geneva on the way. Eight teams from Wisconsin earned top honors in the competition.

Coach Sjoberg said she was initially surprised by the team's success in early rounds of the competition.

"But these kids are real actors. Once they got in front of an audience and judges they just came alive, and it was so funny and go good. They really deserved to win.

Liz Malanaphy characterized the team lovingly as "all hams." "It was so exciting when they won. I was speechless. We always had faith in them but there were 64 other teams, and all these kids are so talented, but what a joy when they called their name."

Sjoberg said that while winning is great, the experience of the competition is almost as overwhelming.

"There really is a different kind of spirit there. Everybody is cheering for everybody else, for everybody's team to do well. Parents cheer other teams. The kids cheer for each other. It is an amazing experience."

Malanaphy said she hopes the experience of this year will encourage other Hudson students to give DI a try. "It is a great program that really celebrates the creativity and innovation kids have inside. We want more kids to have this experience. It is a reward in and of itself just to be part of a team."

Parents and friends staged an impromptu victory parade down Third Street Monday to welcome the team home.

For more information about participating on a Destination Imagination team this fall, contact Malanaphy at (715) 377-9940. Information about the competition can be found on the DI Web site at

Meg Heaton can be reached at

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

(715) 808-8604