Countdown to Nationals

State Championship winning CHS Science Olympiad team prepares for its first national tournament

CHS Science Olympiad team members, including sophomore Katelynne Jones (left) and senior Ryan Gompertz (right) gathered Monday night to practice for the upcoming national tournament on May 20 and 21 in Wisconsin. Five days a week the team works out of its “clubhouse,” one of the portables at Lacamas Heights Elementary School. Coach Ron Wright has called the facility one of the keys to the team’s success. Buy this photo

State Championship winning CHS Science Olympiad team prepares for its first national tournament

When Ron Wright formed the first Camas High School Science Olympiad team in 2007, he had some pretty specific aspirations in mind.

“I just knew Camas High School could send a team to Nationals, so I set a five-year-goal,” Wright said. “And we made it in just under five.”

Getting to the 2011 national tournament in Wisconsin in May meant being the top team in the state, and on April 16 the Papermakers accomplished just that, and in very convincing fashion.

Up against 20 teams from around Washington during the event at Clark College, CHS earned medals in 17 of the 23 events — including eight first place medals — and won by 24 points. It was the largest margin of victory for a state championship team in five years.

“It was a strong win,” Wright said.

It was a victory that CHS has been inching closer and closer toward since the team’s inaugural year when it landed in 10th place in state and also took home the Spirit Award. That was followed by three third-place state finishes in each consecutive year.

“We knew we had a chance at first in state a year ago because of our seniors coming back this year,” Wright said. “But we’d have to do a lot of studying and a lot of intensive work.”

And work they did.

The Camas High School group became the team to beat at state after it captured a first-place win on Feb. 12 at the Aviation Invitational at Aviation High School in Seattle, and another first on March 12 at the Southwest Washington Regional Tournament in Longview.

“That was pretty amazing,” Wright said. “Usually, whoever wins [the Aviation Invite] is first or second at state. It’s [participants are] the same hot teams we’d be competing against at state.

“We thought, now we’re the team to beat, now let’s not lose the momentum,” he continued. “The kids really came together. It was really fun to see that whole team spirit.”

Members of the 2011 State Championship Camas High School Science Olympiad team are: seniors Nicholas Lim, Olivia Janson, Chris Schiller, Brett Steffens, Chris Grote, Chris Emmet, Danika Jones, Devin LeBlanc, Ryan Gompertz, Rogan Campbell; junior Joanna Liao; sophomores Marcus Bintz, Tim Grote, Genny Billington, Jake Hsu, Vaughn Okerlund, Eliot Shoemaker, Noah Wachlin, Eugene Hsu, Charles Teames, Katelynne Jones, Griffin King; and freshmen Jonathan Liao, Ryan Lim and Rachael Faslovich.

In addition to Wright, the team is also coached by CHS teachers Jennifer Dean, Matt Chase, J.D. Stutz and Curtis Mooney, with help from parent volunteers Hans Wachlin, Wendi Billington, Richard Younkin, Judy Bauer and Rick Grote.

‘Countdown to Nationals’

Since capturing the state championship, the team has been practicing for four hours every week night at its “clubhouse,” one of the portable buildings at Lacamas Heights Elementary School. The facility has been serving as its permanent home base this season.

“This clubhouse is critical to our success,” said Rick Grote. “It develops that sense that we are all in this together.”

During practices at the clubhouse, the Science Olympians stay focused and driven toward their ultimate goal.

Written on the dry-erase board is a reminder of what they are working so hard towards. “25 Days to Nationals,” it said Monday night.

At the 27th annual National Science Olympiad, Camas will be competing against the top 60 teams in the country the at the University of Wisconsin — Madison.

Although it is the group’s first crack at the big time, they continue to have high aspirations. Wright said the team has set its sights on taking home at least six medals and placing in the top 10 in half of the events.

“That’s just not heard of,” Wright said, with pride in his voice. “Do they have the ability? Yes. I firmly believe in this crowd. They are great kids.”

Lim, Science Olympiad team president, said he would like to see Camas place in the top 10 to earn a medal.

“I think we have a good chance,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a matter of can we win. It’s more about who is going to stop us from winning.”

The participating teams, each made up of 15 students along with a handful of alternates, will compete in 26 scientific events based on multiple science subjects including physics, chemistry, geology, biology and other fields based on the National Science Education Standards. Participants apply the principals of biology, chemistry, physics, earth sciences, problem-solving and technology to the event.

Competitors may do everything from constructing a tower to applying the principles and practices epidemiology, including the scientific method of inquiry and basic biostatistics, to a disease outbreak investigation.

There is a great deal of work to do before the opening ceremonies on Friday, May 20, at 6:30 p.m., including raising money to get there.

Wright said the team will have to put together approximately $16,000 for the trip. Students and their parents will be providing much of it, but donations can be made to the team through the Camas Educational Foundation’s “donation station” at www.cefcamas.org. There will also be a benefit event on Sunday, May 15, from 4 to 8 p.m., at Big Al’s bowling alley in Vancouver.

In addition to providing some money to help offset expenses for the Science Olympiad team to attend Nationals, it is the kickoff to build an endowment fund for all Camas students to attend similar extra-curricular activities.

For more information about the Science Olympiad, visit www.nso.wisc.edu and sonic.org.

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