Countless hours of intense studying, dozens of practice tests, an entire year of staying before and after school and unwavering determination has finally paid off for the Wydown Middle School Science Olympiad team.
In years past, while consistently placing high at the state competition, Ladue and Pembroke Hills have beaten Wydown and proceeded to Nationals. However, this year Wydown students resolved to be successful.
Students began by actively preparing. Zach Wang, a student who participated in the state competition, said, “Most kids worked every morning and afternoon available to us.”
He also thanked his teachers for supporting the team and pushing them. “[They] helped a lot on our events, whether helping us on build events or getting materials for study events.”
The team had significant assistance from Washington University student coaches and a new assistant coach. Head Coach Sandy Sermos said, “Mr. Crook, the new eighth grade science teacher, had done Science Olympiad at two other schools, so that was a great help.”
Sermos also said the Wash U students were instrumental to their success. “It is heartwarming to see these older science students mentoring our budding scientists,” she said. Sermos added that these kids have an incredible work ethic. “These students show up voluntarily every day before and after school to work on events. They truly enjoy the science, investigation, and competition.”
The year for the team started out difficult, which proved to be significant to their later success. Sermos said, “We went to a really difficult Invitational Tournament in Warrensburg. Students from three other states were there, and the competition was tough. It was very motivating to the team.”
Not only did the students work hard to prepare, the team has a huge sense of camaraderie. “We were really a team, a group of people who trusted each other, not just worked together,” said State participant Pablo Buitrago. “We met together and knew what everyone was doing, and we believed that it was possible. We really had faith in the team.”
At State, there was a huge atmosphere of tension. After seeing multitudes of Wydown students place in each event, the team realized that they had a chance advance to nationals. When Pembroke Hill was announced as third, where only the top two teams qualify for Nationals, Buitrago recalls the team exploded. “We yelled and screamed and jumped up and down and punched each other and we went on like this for a minute straight,” Buitrago said.
Some students were elated, and some were completely taken by surprise. Wang said, “ I was pretty shocked because I had a little hope that we had chance for victory. When I heard Pembroke Hill was in third place I couldn’t believe it. I thought my mind was playing tricks on me.”
Wang’s mother, Susan Yang, was unbelievably proud. “I have been watching Wydown competing in the State Science Olympiad since Wydown started competing four years ago. It’s been exciting to see the team improve steadily year to year. We achieved fourth place our first year, then two consecutive third places the next two years and finally second place this year allowing us to qualify for nationals,” she said. “ I don’t know who was louder, the proud parents or the students!”
Zach Wang’s brother, Andrew, was also enthusiastic. A former Science Olympiad member himself, the tenth-grader said, “From personal experience, I know how difficult Science Olympiad is, and every day, I see my brother studying for at least two hours just on his events. It’s really amazing to see how far we’ve come.”
Now, the team has its mind set on pursuing success at nationals. “ Confidence is increasing, and dreams are expanding to loftier places,” Sermos said. “We have all team members working with each other to improve all of our categories. There are group problem solving sessions going on. Individuals are excited right now, they are happily putting in more hours of practice.”
With renewed conviction, the Wydown Middle School Science Olympiad team continues to work to success at Nationals. This year’s feat may promise more victories in the future at the state level and perhaps the national level.