Camas Science Olympiad team captures 14th place at National tournament

By Heather Acheson, Columbian staff writer

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The Camas High School Science Olympiad team made its mark as it competed against the top 60 teams from across the nation on Saturday in Madison, Wis.

The Papermakers earned 14th place overall in the National Science Olympiad competition, and took home individual medals in two events. According to team coach Ron Wright, the finish is “remarkable” considering that it was the Camas team’s first foray onto the national scene.

“For our first time in, it’s really, really incredible,” said Wright during a phone interview as he waited to board his return flight home on Monday morning. “I am very proud of our team, our school and our district.”

During the tournament held at the University of Wisconsin, each team made up of 15 students along with a handful of alternates competed in 23 scientific events and three trials based on multiple science subjects including physics, chemistry, geology, biology and other fields. Participants apply the principles of biology, chemistry, physics, earth sciences, problem-solving and technology to the event. The top 10 teams in each event earned medals.

The group made up of Seniors Danika Jones abd Olivia Janson and sophomore Genny Billington earned second place in the “Experimental Design” competition.

“It was amazing to be surrounded by that level of intelligence,” Jones said. “We got a better perspective on where Camas is compared to other schools across the United States. It was definitely an experience to remember, and a good opportunity for us to experience Science Olympiad at the national level.”

Seniors Nicholas Lim, team president, and Chris Grote took part in the “Write It/Do It,” event, and earned fifth place.

“I thought the whole tournament was really humbling for us,” Lim said. “For us to get 14th in the nation, I think that was incredible. It’s just a whole different level of competition.”

The Papermakers earned the right to go to Nationals by winning the state tournament on April 16 at Clark College in Vancouver. Up against 20 teams from around Washington, 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.

Other members of the 2011 team include seniors Chris Schiller, Brett Steffens, Chris Emmet, Devin LeBlanc, Ryan Gompertz, Rogan Campbell; junior Joanna Liao; sophomores, Marcus Bintz, Tim Grote, 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 coached by CHS teachers Jennifer Dean, Matt Chase, J.D. Stutz and Curtis Mooney, and parent volunteers Hans Wachlin, Wendi Billington, Richard Younkin, Judy Bauer and Rick Grote.

Janson, who will graduate in June, said she enjoyed the overall experience of the event including interacting with the other students both during competition and at organized social events.

“It’s cool to see that many kids interested in science,” she said.

The Papermakers’ Science Olympiad team was established five years ago by Wright. He said each year and every competition is a chance to improve and gain knowledge.

“Over the past four years we have learned that we are a good program at the state level, and getting stronger,” he said. “With our 14th place debut performance at the national level, we have learned that we are also one of the stronger clubs among the over 3,000 high school Science Olympiad programs nationally.”

For additional National Science Olympiad information and results, visit www.nso.wisc.edu and sonic.org.

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