Saline Science Olympiad Takes 3rd at State Championship, Capping Most Successful Season Yet

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According to coach Nath Akella, ff there were a few words to describe this year's Saline High School Science Olympiad Team they are “stepping up in the face of adversity.” The team completed a remarkable year punctuated by numerous achievements. It celebrates the graduation of 10 seniors. too.

The season got off to a wonderful start in November when Saline hosted its inaugural invitational tournament. Troy Athens co-hosted the tournament. The tournament was limited to 24 teams as part of the learning process. 

"It was amazing to see everyone back in person and the day was highlighted by most families donating time and energy to the day. Many alums returned to help run events and to help with other functions," Akella said. As hosts, Saline did not compete for trophies.

Saline traveled to Ohio for the first large competition of the year. Saline took fourth at Northview against many of the top teams in the Midwest. In January, Saline competed at Cal-Tech virtually from their homeroom in Saline High School taking 14th in the nation against many of the nation’s other top schools. The team traveled to Solon Ohio and won its first-ever trophy there - taking sixth overall. This was during the height of the Covid uptick, making the trip especially challenging- including several schedule changes and absences due to illnesses.

Later in the winter, Saline attended Haslett, Frankenmuth Eagle and Allendale taking first place at all three events. The team also competed in person at the University of Michigan Invitational and took fourth.

The season accelerated in March with a trip to Hillsdale College and a regional championship win. 

"After six years of finishing second, Saline finally beat Pioneer to take the regional championship. It was a special day as Pioneer has been a nationals team for several years," Akella said.

After regionals, the team traveled to the state championship in Lansing. The team had an amazing day, taking third overall. The team had a record 18 placements in 23 events. The team just missed a trip to the National Championship as the top two teams advance. Saline was in a strong position to win the state championship, but had three events perform poorly dropping the entire team out of first. Saline repeated at third place, an incredible showing in what many consider one of the most challenging states in the country.

The state team was comprised of: Senior Captains- Jason Chen, Sahil Thumma, Jason Hu, Josie Cayen; Seniors- Mason Miller, Joseph Chen, Prasiddhi Shivakumaran; Junior Ryan Landini; Sophomores- Abby Rohde, Ayush Reddy, Alex Liu, Avery Nealis, Riley Spencer; and Freshmen Adrian Sieh and Alice Jiang. The team also had a support crew of Kira Saporski, Grace Gasparovic and Andrew Irgang at States.

The team took the most gold medals by any state team this year and the most ever by any Saline team at five. In addition, the team took two bronze medals and two silver medals. Here are the highlights:

  • Second Place Anatomy and Physiology- Jason Chen Sahil Thumma
  • Fifth Place Astronomy- Josie Cayen and Joseph Chen
  • Seventh Place Bridges- Alice Jiang (Lead), Abby Rohde
  • Third Place Codebusters- Jason Chen, Alex Liu, Adrian Sieh
  • Fifth Place Detector Build- Mason Miller, Jason Hu
  • Eighth Place Disease Detectives- Mason Miller, Sahil Thumma
  • Second Place- Dynamic Planet Jason Hu, Josie Cayen
  • Sixth Place Environmental Chemistry Mason Miller, Jason Hu
  • First Place Experimental Design- Joseph Chen, Alex Liu, Alice Jiang
  • Third Place Forensics- Jason Chen, Prasiddhi Shivakumaran
  • First Place Gravity Vehicle- Ayush Reddy (Lead), Alex Liu
  • First Place Green Generation- Jason Hu, Josie Cayen
  • Sixth Place It’s about Time- Joseph Chen, Abby Rohde
  • Sixth Place Ping Pong Parachute- Josie Cayen, Joseph Chen
  • Sixth Place Remote Sensing- Josie Cayen, Jason Hu
  • First Place Trajectory- Riley Spencer, Ryan Landini
  • First Place WIFI Lab- Jason Hu, Mason Miller
  • Fourth Place Wright Stuff- Ryan Landini (Lead), Alice Jiang

This performance is all the more incredible considering that a key member was missing with Covid in the weeks prior to competition, the venues and even rules changed several times due to covid issues and the younger students battled the difficult adjustment back to in-person after being virtual the previous year.

“This is the strongest team I have been around especially when you consider all of the adversity the team had to work through. I was really proud of how hard the older students worked to try and help the younger ones adjust to high school, and how much the team worked to try to get a small program to the National Championship- even though we just missed it. I am especially excited that we were only a few points away from Mason (Ohio) at Cal Tech” said Nath Akella, Head Coach. “This was a special team this year, one that I’ll always be proud of. I really hope they know how good they were - really a team every coach dreams of having”

This year’s national champion was Mason High School, from Ohio.

The Science Olympiad team is always welcoming new members, the summer program will start in July.

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