Shahala second at National Science Bowl

Runner-up finish nets $1,000 prize for middle school team




A team from Shahala Middle School took second place in the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Science Bowl competition, edged out in Monday’s final match by Gale Ranch Middle School from San Ramon, Calif.

Gale Ranch was Shahala’s only stumbling block, defeating the Evergreen district squad twice in the double-elimination tournament of 41 middle-school teams.

The contest features challenging individual and team questions that range from chemistry and physics to biology and earth science, with mathematics also playing a key role.

Besides a well-earned trophy, Shahala returns home from Washington, D.C., with $1,000 for its science department, thanks to its runner-up finish.

Team members are Victor Chang, Eric Hou, Ming Liu, Peter Lu, and Daniel Rodricks. All are eighth-graders save for Ming Liu, a seventh-grader. Eighth-grade science and physics teacher James Cantonwine is their coach.

They went undefeated in the Southwest Washington-Oregon regional competition at the University of Portland, sponsored by the Bonneville Power Administration, to earn their spot at the national competition.

In the nation’s capital, Shahala breezed past all comers, save for the eventual champion Gale Ranch team.

“They are that good, and maybe that got into our guys’ heads a bit,” Cantonwine said of the winners.

In any case, it was another huge leap for Shahala’s Science Bowl program, in only its third season. That includes eight other students on two more squads. Cantonwine said his goal this year was to better last year’s fourth-place regional finish, and the national finalists surely did that, maximizing their skills.

“We just kept winning. These students are really phenomenal,” he said. “In the tournament, there’s a very clear first and a clear second. Then, there’s a gap.”

Sunset High School of Beaverton, Ore., also scored high among 69 high school teams to compete, nearly cracking the championship round. Besides sharing an airplane flight home Monday, the two squads had cheered each other on, Cantonwine said.

His team was able to tour the city’s monuments and museums on Thursday and Friday, prior to round-robin and advanced rounds held on Saturday.

Winner of the high school bracket was Mira Loma High School of Sacramento, whose team won an all-expenses-paid trip in July to the International Science School in Sydney, Australia.

In total, an estimated 14,000 students nationwide competed in local science bowl contests this year.

Monday’s final match was held at the National Building Museum and appeared on a live webcast, early morning Pacific time. Steven Chu, U.S. energy secretary, spoke during the awards ceremony.

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Howard Buck: 360-735-4515 or