The 7th, 8th and 9th graders wound up in seventh place out of 60 teams at the event held over the weekend at the University of Wisconsin-Stout in Menomonie, Wis.
Led by national champions Thomas Draper and Nolan Ruble in Air Trajectory, the Grand Haven students moved several steps ahead of their 12th place finish last year and their 24th place finish two years ago.
“This is probably our best showing at nationals in 4-5 years,” Mihalek said. “And this was one of our better point totals.”
The coach said that Draper and Ruble set the tone for their team at the competition with their unbeatable performance early in the day.
“We’ve had success in that particular event in the last couple years at nationals,” Mihalek said. “We did well at regionals and state. We knew we had a good device. We had high hopes.”
Mihalek said the two ninth graders got close enough on their short and long distances to opt to do bucket or bonus shots.
“It was like a super star basketball player shooting a jump shot,” the coach said. “It swished right in.”
That was pretty exceptional considering they had to recalibrate and re-measure for the bonus shots, he said
Eight Lakeshore Middle School teams earned medals by placing in the top six in their events. There were 23 events.
“They were super excited of their results,” Mihalek said of the entire team.
Going to nationals without the high school team was bittersweet, because they’ve almost always been together at the top event, the coach said.
Still the high school team stayed in contact with the middle school students throughout the event, offering them encouragement and congratulations via text messages.
Grand Haven High School placed fourth at the state competition, but only the top two teams advance to nationals. Northville High School was the top Michigan team at nationals, placing seventh
White Pines Intermediate School placed 10th at the state meet and also did not advance to the national round.
Mira Loma High School in Scramento, Calif. and Daniel Wright Junior High School from Lincolnshire, Ill. took the top honors in the 32nd Annual Science Olympiad National Tournament.
Meads Mill Middle School was the top middle school team from Michigan, placing third.
Mihalek said he was proud of his team and appreciated the sacrifice made by the 9th-grade students who couldn’t compete, but sacrificed their time to help the other students excel.
A Science Olympiad rule for middle school teams limits the team to no more than five ninth-graders in the competition.