Carmel Valley Middle School repeats as regional Science Olympiad champions

By Ram Krishnan and Bhuvana Ramanathan

Thirty-one schools, 98 teams, nearly 1,400 students, and one champion! The Carmel Valley Middle School (CVMS) Science Olympiad team won the regional Science Olympiad again! On Saturday, Feb. 2, the hard-working young scientists of CVMS repeated last year’s championship by beating many of the strongly ranked schools, such as Mesa Verde and Black Mountain to bring home the trophy.

San Diego County hosts the largest Science Olympiad competition in the nation, with almost 1,400 students participating from grades five through eight. Teams are made up of 15 students each and compete in 23 science-themed events. This year, there were many new events such as Boomiliver, Helicopters, Sounds of Music and Metric Mastery, along with perennial favorites such as Anatomy, Disease Detectives, Forestry and Reach For The Stars. Students, along with volunteer coaches, began studying for each event back in October and spent four hard months in intense preparation to get ready for the competition.

The day of the Olympiad started early for the CVMS students. The sun had not yet risen and the pink hues of the morning sky greeted us as we drove east to Ranch Bernardo High School. We were going to the 2013 Regional Science Olympiad as returning champions. The heavy weight of expectations of parents, coaches and teachers were on the students’ shoulders.

In many ways this was a year of rebuilding for the CVMS SO team. The two CVMS Science Olympiad coordinators, Rekha Iyer and Yonghong Yang, were brand new and so were several of the coaches. Some of our best performers from last year’s winning team had gone on to high school and a fresh crop of eager 7th graders had taken their place. It was natural to wonder ‘Will we be able to recapture our winning ways?’

The students and coaches were wearing their bright green CVMS t-shirts. Understandably, there was nervousness written on the young faces as they started making their way to their designated events. But as the morning wore on and more events were completed, there was growing confidence in our camp.

After a full day of competitions, the awards ceremony started at 4.30 p.m. in the Rancho Bernardo High Gym packed to capacity with 2,500 students, coaches and parents. The always enthusiastic regional director, Liz Jablecki, called out the top 20 teams for each of the 23 individual events. Slowly but surely the wins piled up for the Bobcats. They managed to win an astounding nine events out of the 23 and got five second place and five third place finishes. Some of the events we won were brand new events like Boomilever, Rotor Egg Drop and Shock Value.

After the individual awards it was time for the team awards. The Bobcats hearts were racing as Liz announced the top five teams. Black Mountain, our fierce competitor, was announced as the 5th place finisher. There was a tie for third – our own little neighbors the Torrey Hills Hawks won 3rd place along with Marshall. Finally Mesa Verde was announced as the 2nd place winner. Pandemonium broke among our ranks and we were cheering so loudly that our first place finish announcement was almost drowned out.

Principal Laurie Brady complimented the winners saying, “I am immensely proud of our students, parent coaches and the well run Science Olympiad Program. The success of the Bobcat Team speaks volumes about Carmel Valley Middle School’s commitment to excellence and the collaborative spirit of our Learning Community. The Science Olympiad Club relies on the dedication and passion of our kids, the hard work and support of our parents, the collaborative efforts between our administration and coordinators and the ongoing support of our PTSA. Go Bobcats!”

The two new CVMS Science Olympiad coordinators were all smiles as they brought home the trophy. Rekha Iyer said, “The level of commitment shown by CVMS students, coaches and volunteers to Science Olympiad is truly amazing. It was a privilege to work with such a dedicated group of people!” Yonghong Yang said, “It was very exciting to win the competition again. I just love the energy that students and coaches demonstrated during the award ceremony, and I’m glad to be a part of Science Olympiad to help stir up a passion for science and a desire for excellence among our kids.”

Some of the coaches are themselves students. Amanda Ke, a junior at CCA, coached the Forestry event. Amanda recounted her experience saying, “On event day, especially during the event ceremony, I was extremely anxious, probably even more so than the students. However, as each of the CVMS teams were getting called up, the joy and pride of each Forestry team was evident on their faces. All six of the teams I coached placed; one of them got first! Coaching Science Olympiad was ultimately a highly rewarding experience.”

The students, for their part, were completely thrilled with the program and their victory. The events served not just as a way to develop their interest in science but also a way to build friendships and learn to work together as a team. They were uniform in praising their coaches. Student Michelle Hsiao sent this note to one of her coaches to express her gratitude: “Thank you very much, Coach! This event was the one I learned the most in, and it was a fun learning experience! You’re a great coach!” Another student Jacob Zhang showed the Bobcat spirit, remarking “Don’t stop fighting until you’ve won — or lost.” Well, I say that’s good advice!

Congratulations to the hard working students, coaches, volunteers, PTSA mentors and the Science Olympiad coordinators. Now on to the state championships!