This is the 21st time that a GHHS team has gone to nationals, and head coach Mike Reed has been involved with the team every time. Reed said he is very pleased with how his team did, and how the event went overall.
“We ended up with four medals in four events,” he said. “Some people might look at sixth place and say, ‘Well, that wasn’t very good’ — but hey, there were 60 (high school) teams at the national tournament from 48 different states, and sixth place is very good.”
There were some hiccups in the tournament, Reed said. A few of the events didn’t go exactly as planned, and the team had to make changes in who did which event, due to schedule conflicts.
“There were some other events that did go how we wanted to,” Reed said.
The high school team earned ninth place or better in 11 events.
Nate Mihalek, head coach for the Lakeshore Middle School team, said he was “extremely excited and proud” of his team.
“To take sixth place is just awesome,” he said. “Whenever you get a chance to go to the national tournament, it’s a huge honor in its own right.”
The Lakeshore team placed highly because of the hard work by the students, Mihalek said, who were also excited to be at nationals.
White Pines Middle School head coach Rhonda Bird said she thought her team’s efforts were “excellent.” Like the GHHS team, Bird said her students also had to make changes to accommodate the national tournament schedule.
“Thirteenth place in the nation proves that we have that depth of the students to do that,” she said. “... We’re very proud of our comeback this year. Last year, we missed out on nationals, and it takes time to rebuild the team.”
The national tournament is the final level of a series of competitions beginning at the regional level and moving up to state. All three Grand Haven Area Public Schools teams placed in the top four at the state competition, held at Michigan State University in April.
Events consist of tests and trials on which students must score highly. Some test how well the competitors built their devices. One event tests how long students can get a wooden helicopter to stay in the air, and another compares the ratio of a tower’s weight to how much weight it can hold before breaking. Others test competitors’ knowledge on specific topics, such as fossils or ornithology.
Gary Graper, co-director of the national Science Olympiad tournament, said 120 teams from 47 states competed Saturday — with 60 middle school and 60 high school teams registered.
GHAPS Superintendent Keith Konarska made the trek to Madison, Wis., to watch the tournament.
“It’s just been very exciting to see our students participate in the event,” he said. “We’re confident that they’re doing well. This gives them a chance to compete at the highest levels and competing against the best in the country, and we’re excited to see the kinds of things that they’re doing.”