LMS students make it to state in MATHCOUNTS competition

Gaige Bache, Josslyn White, Xavier Reatz, and Chayse Harley, and math teacher, Mr. Zeiler. Photo courtesy Elizabeth Marty.


Submitted by

Elizabeth Marty


A team of eighth grade students from Libby Middle School (LMS) took second place and received the highest team score requiring collaboration and critical thinking at the regional MATHCOUNTS competition in Kalispell on Thursday, Feb. 20.

The team of four, which included Gaige Bache, Josslyn White, Xavier Reatz, and Chayse Harley, was one of three teams who qualified to participate in the state competition in Butte this March. There were a total of ten participating teams.

Tyler Anderson, Sam Brumbaugh, Mylie Rayome, Trent Riddle, Casey Rusdal and James Redifer placed in the top 20 percent of the 97 total students from throughout the northwest who registered.

LMS math teacher, Mr. Zeiler, said “all who entered did amazing,” and even spent their lunches practicing the month before the competition.

When eighth grade student Xavier Reatz was asked why he decided to enter MATHCOUNTS, he said that he really likes math and he wanted to show how well he could do.

The MATHCOUNTS Foundation is a non-profit organization that reaches more than a quarter million sixth through eighth grade students each year throughout all U.S. states and territories through math resources, the MATHCOUNTS Competition Series, the National Math Club, and the Math Video Challenge.

This year was Libby Middle School’s first time competing in the competition; weather prevented travel to last year’s event.

Travel, registration fees, and snacks were provided by LMHS’s GEAR UP program.

First business set to open in

Libby’s Kootenai Mercantile Mall

By Brian Baxter

Toni Lynn Backen poses for a photo in front of her new office. Photo by Brian Baxter, The Montanian.



A new Farmers Insurance Group of Companies office is officially opening on Monday, March 2 at 316 California Avenue in Libby.

This is the first office to open in the newly renovated spaces in the old Kootenai Mercantile building.

The new complex will be called Libby Mercantile. The new manager of the Farmers Insurance office is Toni-Lynn Backen. Backen is a 2002 Libby High School graduate, who then went on to graduate with honors from Charter College. She has been licensed since 2014 and until 2016, she worked with Aetna Health Insurance during two open enrollments as a licensed agent / member services supervisor and in training agents.

From 2016 until 2018 Backen helped other agents with their clientele and assisted them with building their business. In 2019, she completed her 12 month Protege Program in less than ten months. Now, in 2020, Backen will begin her journey of being a local agent in her family’s hometown.

Her specialties are family protection plans, business protection plans, education, and complimentary reviews of current policies.

The new office is painted in the royal blue and battleship gray Farmers colors in the reception room. There will also be a child friendly area so young ones can play quiet games or read while their parents discuss policies. The back room of the office is for her private consulting.

The remodel has included fresh paint but has left the high ceilings of the old mercantile and antique slate. This Montanan has considerately left room on the walls and over doorway spaces for her son Noah’s future hunting trophies.

Serendipitously, the situation came up where one Libby hometown family has passed the business on to another. Steve Bertelsen’s dad, Neil, ran the Farmers Business out of their home for 40 years. Steve then took over, and his wife, Deb, eventually joined him in running the business for 30 more years, totaling 70 years in the Bertelsen family.

Steve told The Montanian that his dad actually went to school with Vincent Backen’s father Dan. Vince Backen is the owner of the old Kootenai Mercantile and has been revitalizing the building therefore contributing to the revival of our community. Vincent is Toni-Lynn Backen’s dad. When asked how he felt about Toni-Lynn taking over the business, Bertelsen said, “I wanted someone from the local area to take it over, since it’s been a local run deal for so long. I’m very happy that a local gal from a longtime Libby family was able to take things over.”


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