For the fourth consecutive year, the Alexandria DECA chapter qualified six more students for international competition than the year before.

At the State Career Development Conference in Minneapolis March 1-3, a total of 31 Alexandria Area High School students earned spots at the international competition in Nashville April 28-May 2.

"The kids just keep getting better," said Eric Hartmann, a business/marketing teacher and DECA adviser.

DECA is a school-to-work organization that prepares high school students for careers in marketing, management and entrepreneurship. At state there were often from 30 to 130 students competing in each category. Students were limited to competing in two events.

This year, 107 Alexandria students qualified to compete at the state level, and of that group, 62 were individual finalists. By the end of the three-day competition, the AAHS squad had captured 13 trophies, including four first place finishes and three seconds.

All four first-place finishes came in prepared events categories.

Savannah Overland won for hospitality professional selling; Anna Zwilling and Ethan Patience for sports and entertainment operations research; Reece Stallman, Meg Shercliffe and Graham Peterson for business services operations research; and Kennedy Montgomery, Hunter Hastings and Connor Schultz for finance operation research.

Placing second were: in individual role plays, Parker Jabas for business finance; and in project management events, Avery Hagstrom, Sophie Anderson and Taylor Nelson for sales project; and Abby Blank, Graham Peterson and Matthew Carlsen for community service awareness.

Other qualifiers for internationals are: Zachary Kent, Lillian Thul, Peter Sansted, Ciara O’Connor, Kaylee Meyer, Cora Boesl, Ethan Johnson, Aaron Safarik, Dylan Nelson, Chance Thompson, Caleb Wendel, Benjamin Borden, Samuel Peterson, Myles Sansted, Wyatt Odland, Erik Hedstrom and Brendan Skarpness.

More than 60 schools in the state participate in the DECA conference, said Hartmann, who for his own purposes used a point system to see how Alexandria stacks up unofficially against the other schools. He had them in the top five, behind three much-larger Twin Cities area schools and Sauk Rapids.

"We feel good about being in the top five," he said.

Hartmann pointed to two areas to explain the growing success of Alexandria's DECA program. He praised the seniors for their mentoring of the younger students and helping develop their skills. The other contributing factor is the Geneva Capital Shark Tank event and the business operations plans that students create for local businesses.

Four of the eight groups that qualified for international competition, making up a dozen students, were in the the school's Business Center for Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS) class and presented onstage during the Shark Tank event in January. Three of those four groups took first place, Hartmann said.

He credited the community support the students receive and the work everyone puts into that project for making a difference.

"The number of community partnerships we have and the exposure that kids have in working with business professionals enhances their skills to a whole 'nother level," said AAHS Academy Coach Claire Anderson.

The school is already at work trying to line up businesses that have projects CAPS students can work on during the next school year. "It's a good win-win," Hartmann said. Interested businesses can contact him at or Anderson at

Following are the Alexandria results:

State only events

Employment Interview Entry: 11. Myles Sansted.

Gold Chapter: 11. Ben Borden, Lilly Thul and Sam Peterson.

School Based Enterprise: 9. Myles Sansted and Wyatt Odland.

Individual role plays

Apparel & Accessories: 7. Taylor Nelson.

Business Finance: 2. Parker Jabas.

Hotel & Lodging: 3. Savannah Overland.

Marketing Communications: 8. Ben Borden.

Quick Serve Restaurant: 12. Emma Magaard

Restaurant & Food Service: 10. Anna Zwilling

Retail Merchandising: 3. Zach Kent.

Team decision making

Buying & Merchandising: 8. Dylan Nelson and Ethan Johnson

Buying & Merchandising: 12. Micaela Nelson and Josie Steidl.

Entrepreneurship: 8. Erik Hedstrom and Ethan Patience.

Entrepreneurship: 3. Lilly Thul and Peter Sansted.

Travel & Tourism: 8. Wyatt Odland and Myles Sansted.

Prepared events

Innovation Plan: 11. Ben Borden, Lilly Thul and Erik Hedstrom.

Independent Business Plan: 8. Micaela Nelson, Josie Steidl and Brooke Houska.

Hospitality Professional Selling: 1. Savannah Overland.

Business Services Operations Research: 1. Reece Stallman, Meg Shercliffe and Graham Peterson.

Buying and Merchandising Operations Research: 4. Kaylee Meyer, Ciara O’Connor and Cora Boesl.

Finance Operation Research: 9. Caleb Wendel, Parker Jabas and Brendan Skarpness.

Finance Operation Research: 1. Kennedy Montgomery, Hunter Hastings and Connor Schultz.

Sports & Entertainment Operations Research: 1. Anna Zwilling and Ethan Patience

Project management events

Business Solutions Project: 3. Ethan Johnson, Aaron Safarik and Dylan Nelson.

Career Development: 5. Zach Kent, Lucas Skarpness and Kamryn Coauette.

Community Service Awareness: 2. Abby Blank, Graham Peterson and Matthew Carlsen.

Community Service: Giving: 12. Georgia Reemts, Landon Schabel and Anna Allen

Financial Literacy Promotion Plan: 10. Caleb Wendel, Kelsey Fletcher and Payton Olson.

Sales Project: 2. Avery Hagstrom, Sophie Anderson and Taylor Nelson.