Science Olympiad team prepares for state after regionals win
Being consistently ranked near top, the team is optimistic going into state
April 6, 2017
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While high school hockey and football games are often attended by hundreds or even thousands of students, the achievements of equally competitive academic teams can tend to be overlooked.
New Trier’s Science Olympiad is one of those teams, having ranked at the top two in Illinois for the past five years. After winning their regional competition Sat., Mar. 18, they’re looking to surpass their record as they prepare for state in April.
With the level of competition within the program, Science Olympiad doesn’t quite fit under the umbrella of a club. Although it’s not officially recognized by the IHSA, members of the team see it as more of a sport. “It’s like track but with science,” co-head and senior Jason Yang said.
Co-head and senior Jason Lee described it similarly in terms of its level of intensity. “It’s a very competitive and team-oriented activity,” he said. “We can’t succeed if even one person fails, so we need everyone on the team to get with the program.”
Sponsor Alex Howe agreed, “It’s like a sport, but it’s academic and building. It’s maybe a little less physical pain and more mental pain, but there’s still blood, sweat, and tears that go into it, just like any other sport.”
Members of the team also undergo similar bonding experiences to high school sports teams. This year, at the annual MIT invitational, in addition to winning 6th place against some of the best teams in the nation, the co-heads took the opportunity to build camaraderie between members by playing a game of Pictionary.
According to Yang, the cohesion of the group has led to improved performances. “It helps that the seniors this year are really helping everyone, especially the newer, younger members,” he said. “In previous years, I think there was some division, and people didn’t necessarily spend a lot of time making sure that younger members were getting included.”
The team’s stronger unity is reflected in the team’s results, as they are on a much more promising trend than the past few years. “This has been a particularly exciting season in my history of being a coach,”
Howe said. “The top two teams in the state right now– us and Stevenson– are very close right now.”
“Stevenson has been first the past two years, and we’ve been second,” Yang said of the state competition.
However, the results for this year indicate that this trend might change. “If you look at the Loyola and Huntley results, we beat Stevenson by ten points,” he said. “It’s definitely very promising looking ahead.”
As the New Trier’s stats from the past few years place them as one of the strongest in the country, the co-heads have looked at what differentiates them from other schools.
“Other schools are arguably more intense about Science Olympiad. It’s a cut sport where they set their teams at the very beginning of the year with a tryout,” Lee said. “At New Trier, initially, it’s no cut, and we try to schedule as many people as possible at invitationals so that everybody has an opportunity.”
He also noted a disparity in the time commitment required. “We only really meet on Tuesdays. Other teams probably have a lot more practices,” he said.
However, it seems that most members of Science Olympiad enjoy the activity enough to prepare outside of their scheduled practices. “I like that it focuses on other subjects that you don’t necessarily learn in school, and this is a chance to do self-guided research,” sophomore Penelope Tir said.
Junior Mason Rodriguez Rand also expressed his appreciation for the competition. “It’s really cool in build events when you spend a lot of time making and remaking something and it won’t work. Then finally when it works, that’s a really great feeling,” he said.
While the team sees their season of hard work paying off, they now aim to stay focused as they compete for first place at state. “The trick is to not get too cocky, because we have some tough competitions where we really want to shine and do our best,” Howe said.
However, Howe is still proud of the team’s performance no matter how they do at State. “Regardless of what happens– win, lose, or draw– I already know it’s been a great season,” he said.