The Grand Haven High School, Lakeshore and White Pines teams will compete among the top 60 high school and 60 middle school teams during the state competition on Saturday at Michigan State University.
During the regional event in March, both the high school and Lakeshore Middle School teams received first place honors, and the White Pines team finished third in its division.
In the weeks leading up to competitions, students spend more time practicing and studying, said GHHS senior Ciana Witherell.
Whether it’s downtime during school, waiting for a practice or staying up later than normal, GHHS junior Trent Stegink said they look for spare moments to study.
“You have to find time wherever,” he said.
On average, Witherell said she has been spending 20-25 hours a week working outside of school. A normal Saturday for Witherell includes waking up at 8:30 a.m. and practicing at White Pines from 9 a.m. to noon. After a half-hour lunch break, Witherell said they work in the school’s shop again from 12:30-6:30 p.m.
Witherell is competing in the tournament’s Chemistry Lab, Towers, Experimental Design, Helicopters and Robot Arm. She also practices for Electric Vehicle, but she’s not competing in the event.
Witherell began her Science Olympiad career in sixth grade at Caledonia before moving to Grand Haven.
At the high school level, Stegink said a lot of the studying is self-guided and work is done more on their own. Not counting team practices, Stegink said he usually spends four hours practicing during the week and 6-8 hours a day on weekends.
Stegink, who also joined Science Olympiad in sixth grade, is competing in Astronomy, Dynamic Plant, Remote Sensing, and Rocks and Minerals.
Since the White Pines team consists of sixth- and seventh-graders, Hannah Black said they don’t have as many years of science under their belts compared to older students, which can be a challenge.
“What we don’t know, we make up for in spirit,” the sixth-grader said.
Black joined Science Olympiad two years ago, and this weekend she’s competing in the Road Scholar and Towers events.
Black said she spent five hours working on half of the rough draft for the “cheat sheet” they’re allowed to use during competitions. She said the information is in size 6 font and vocabulary words are in alphabetical order.
During the week, Black focuses on her school homework, and then uses the remainder of her time for Science Olympiad preparations. Most of her weekends are devoted to Science Olympiad. Black said if there’s ever a free moment, it’s “Science Olympiad time.”
“There’s always something you can learn,” she said.
When it comes to studying, Witherell said they want to be prepared so they don’t let their teammates down. Regardless of the outcome at competition, Black said everyone is supportive of one another.
Although studying is time consuming, Witherell said it’s fun to see their hard work pay off, and it gives her experience in learning how to best study for high school and college. She said she’s learned how to take good notes, and diving deeper into topics also helped her learn things earlier than her classmates.
“It’s investing in your future now,” she said.
As the Science Olympians continue their preparations, Witherell offers advice for younger students.
“I would tell young Science Olympiad members to go for it,” she said. “The more work you put in earlier, the easier it is later. It is super important to establish a reputation of being dependable if you want to compete now or later, because the coaches all share information even between divisions.”
In addition to working hard, Witherell said it’s almost important for students to enjoy themselves.
“The reward for your hard work comes on competition day when you get to stand on the podium and get a medal from an old man who offers you a handshake, but it also comes in the relationships you form,” she said.