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Programmers finish first in intercollegiate contest

September 11th, 2017

NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College went to its second programming contest of the school year and came home with first place.

Karl Friesen, adjunct assistant professor of computer science and Bethel’s programming coach, took two teams (five students) to Lincoln, Nebraska, to a programming contest co-hosted by the Central Plains chapter of the Consortium for Computing Sciences in Colleges and Computer Science and the engineering department at the University of Nebraska.

About 20 teams from colleges and universities in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska participated in the contest.

As they did at the ACM Intercollegiate Computer Programming Contest last November in Kansas City, seniors Mareike Bergen, Moundridge, and Zach Preheim, Peabody, and junior Neil Smucker, North Newton, competed as the “Threshers.”

They were the first team to submit a correct solution, at around the two-hour mark, and maintained their lead throughout the four-hour contest.

In the end, Team Thresher solved two problems from “a fairly challenging eight-problem set” to take first place overall, Friesen said.

Ryan Fritz, junior from Salina, and Alexander Haas, sophomore from Topeka, also competed, as the “GrayMaroons.”

Second place went to a team from Creighton University, Omaha, which also solved two problems, and third place to a team from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

“This is the first time a Bethel team has finished first in an intercollegiate programming contest,” Friesen said. “Mareike, Zach and Neil are to be congratulated on this remarkable accomplishment.”

This contest followed the same rules as the ACM contest, in which teams of up to three students have five hours and one computer to solve as many problems as they can from the problem set, and each solved problem is worth one point, with ties broken in favor of the team that required the least time to program their solution.

To be successful, teams must be able to read and analyze problems quickly, communicate effectively with their teammates, have a broad knowledge of classic problems, algorithms and data structures, and possess the ability to apply those skills to produce working code while under severe time pressure.

Bethel College is the only private college in Kansas listed in the analysis of top colleges and universities, the Washington Monthly National Universities-Liberal Arts section and the National Liberal Arts College category of U.S. News & World Report, all for 2016'17. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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About Bethel

As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.