Ingrid Mundt has been immersed in the life of Margaret Sanger for the past several months. Before she completed eighth grade this year, the 14-year-old from St. Paul spent her lunch hours crafting, editing and re-editing a paper about the birth-control activist.

The process culminated at the University of Maryland in College Park on Thursday when she won first place in the junior paper category at the National History Day competition.

“I’m still a little bit in shock. … It doesn’t quite feel real, even though the medal is still around my neck,” she said.

Mundt, who attended Capitol Hill Magnet School, was one of two students from St. Paul who took home top awards.

She was joined by Grace Philippon of the Twin Cities German Immersion School, who won second place in the same category for her paper, “Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring: Standing Up for Women, Science, and the Environment.”

National History Day offers yearlong programs for students to conduct research-based work on historical topics. For the junior paper category, students must complete footnoted research papers of 1,500 to 2,500 words.

Students whose projects win at local and affiliate levels advance to the national competition, which this year included more than 3,000 students from the U.S. and several other countries. Minnesota sent 61 students from grades six to 12.

Mundt had twice before participated in History Day, but this was the first year she qualified for nationals. She said she was drawn to Sanger’s life because she’s interested in “the lead-ups to big events,” such as creation of the first contraceptive pill.

“It felt amazing to see [the work] pay off,” she said. “But on the other hand, just being proud of all the work that I put into it and knowing just how far I’ve come since the school round is very rewarding in and of itself.”

Philippon, a 13-year-old who just completed seventh grade and placed first in the state competition, said she wasn’t expecting to win at nationals since so many kids were competing. She said she was inspired to write her paper on “Silent Spring” because her dad taught a class on Rachel Carson at the University of Minnesota and she cares about environmentalism.

Winners had to sprint across the floor of the Maryland basketball arena to receive their awards.

“To see them actually get that chance to run across … it’s one of the coolest experiences I’ve had as an educator,” said Mark Westpfahl, a history teacher at Capitol Hill whose students have gone to nationals for four years.

Three other Minnesota projects placed third in other categories. They were completed by August Butterworth, Chaska Middle School East; Audrey Faricy, Sruthi Subramanian and Sebastian Helgeson, Parkview Center School, Roseville; and Aliyah Hamlin, Sunrise Park Middle School, White Bear Lake.