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Nicollet Middle School chess team nabs first state chess championship

Nicollet Middle School chess team nabs first state chess championship

The Nicollet Middle School chess team won the 2021 Middle School Chess state championship, held virtually April 10-11. It was Nicollet's first time in school history to win the state chess title.

The team’s scorers were Rynaldo Mejia (4th place trophy), Jacob Schoenbauer (6th place trophy), Owen Steglich (11th place trophy) and Jeenal Sharma.

Other students who participated in the tournament include John Blomer, Isabelle Burtnett, Aiden Callenius, Kerry Crawford, Mavryk Eastman, Winston Ekstrand, Alec Erickson, Mitchell Kellen, Owen Krick, Soren Leafblad, Kenny Moe, Mason Pederson, Spencer Pederson, Thomas Pritchard, David Santos and Harrison Stage.

The team is coached by retired district math and science teacher, Brian Ribnick, whose teams have had incredible success throughout the years.

Ribnick has taught chess to students for five decades, coaching teams to over 30 state and 20 national scholastic chess championships, as well as several individual national titles. He’s also been a leader in the Minnesota chess community, serving as coach for the state middle school championship team, vice president for the School Chess Association, a member of the Minnesota State Chess Association Board of Directors, and on the United State Chess Federation Scholastic Committee. He was named Minnesota Academic Coach of the Year in 2003 and also inducted into the Minnesota Chess Hall of Fame in 2019.

The head trainer is Nels Truelson and assistant coach is Tyler McDonald.

The team will be participating in the National Middle school chess championship the last weekend of April. 

Photo: (Back row) Winston Ekstrand, John Blomer, Jake Schoenbauer, Owen Steglich, Owen Krick, Mason, Pederson and Ryan Kennedy; (Front row)vSpencer Pederson, Thomas Pritchard, Harrison Stage and Isabel Burtnett