—By Ally Santa Maria & Julia Bannon—
For the first time in six years, North’s Science Olympiad team did not come in second at this year’s State Tournament. They came in first, beating South for the first time since 2009, and are now on their way to nationals at the University of Nebraska on May 15 and 16.
Science Olympiad is a club that participates in competitions throughout the year, eventually leading up to the State Tournament in the spring. The team that wins States then moves on to Nationals. The tournaments test competitors’ knowledge in a number of scientific subjects such as chemistry and genetics, and their ability to build contraptions that complete tasks. According to the Science Olympiad website, these tournaments are basically an “academic track meet.”
This year, North participated in a number of competitions, including one at Yale and a local competition in Montgomery. The tournaments helped the team prepare for the State Tournament. “A lot of very good teams, including some nationally-ranked teams, go to these tournaments, so they were definitely good practice for the State tournament, to test how much we knew in a competitive environment and how we fared against these good teams,” senior captain Chris Shao said.
The club’s preparation started last year, when juniors (the class of 2015) started making tests for tryouts—that way, the club could host try-outs earlier in the year so they start practicing earlier. The team meets every Friday as well as some weekends. Meetings consist of preparing and reflecting on competitions as well as practicing and studying.
Part of the reason Science Olympiad performed better this year than in the past was because many of the seniors on the team did not go attend the class trip to Disney World, which is directly before the qualifying competition. “Our team last year had nine members who returned from Disney completely tired and had to compete the following day. This year, we reduced that number to two, both of whom made sure to save some energy for Science Olympiad,” senior captain Sundar Solai said. South’s team, which is usually North’s main competitor, has its senior class trip after States, giving them a huge advantage over the fatigued North seniors.
But the team has not gotten here without hitting a few rough patches. Although North was able to defeat its rivals, Science Olympiad is not the only priority. “There’s a lot of pressure right now in school with projects and tests and getting ready for AP exams, plus all the other after school activities that kids tend to do. Some play sports, some are on student council, some do outside music stuff so there’s a lot of competing interests. I wish we could prepare more, but kids have different interests, and I’m okay with that,” club advisor, James Looney said.
Luckily for North, the team already accomplished its goal for the year. “Competition-wise, for the past several years, our primary goal has been to win the state championship and go to the national tournament, since we’ve taken second place for the last seven years. We’ve never really had the chance to consider our goals for the national tournament, and so now that we’re finally going, it’s hard to know how we stand up against other teams, and it’s hard to know what we can expect,” Shao said. Solai said the team’s dedication was a big part of the reason they won this yearyear: “The whole team’s mentality was geared toward winning the state championship this year. That isn’t to say that we have not focused on winning in the past, but I think this is the first time that all 36 members of Science Olympiad have demonstrated such dedication.”
As for Nationals, the team has set the bar high. “Having seen the passion and effort that the team has put in this year, I know we have the capability of placing very high,” Shao said.