SciOly heads to State competition, optimistic despite challenges

    Despite the unusually limited amount of time to prepare for the North California Science Olympiad State competition, the Palo Alto High School SciOly team hopes to place first tomorrow in Turlock.

    After placing first at the Santa Clara Regional Science Olympiad competition two weeks ago, Paly SciOly’s green team will be heading into a fierce competition for first place. Paly’s team is split into two teams: the green team, akin to a varsity team, and the white team, or the junior varsity team.

    The white team also did extremely well in Regionals, placing third out of 32 other high school teams, according to junior white team member Frances Zhuang. This is the first year that the white team has made it to the top three. However, although usually the top three teams at Regionals advance to States, the white team will not be advancing to States due to competition rules that only allow one team per school.

    The green team will be competing against their top rival, Mira Loma High School from Sacramento, who has consistently placed first since 2005, except for when Paly broke their winning streak in 2013, said junior green team member Celine Wang. Last year, Paly lost to Mira Loma by 27 points, dashing their hopes of advancing to the Science Olympiad National Tournament.

    This year, team members are looking for a chance at redemption and the state title. However, the team will once again face steep competition from reigning champions Mira Loma, who also placed first at Nationals last year.

    “This year our competition is insane, and it’s going to be really difficult going against them [Mira Loma],” said Wang. “But we’re just going to go in and do our best and hope all goes well.”

    In addition to the tough competition, the team must overcome changes to their events as well as a limited time to prepare between Regionals and States.

    According to Wang, Paly usually has a month in between the two competitions, but this year with scheduling changes, that time has been shortened to two weeks. Adding to their troubles, Mira Loma has had a longer time between Regionals and States to prepare, as their Regional competition was a week earlier.

    Members were also surprised when competition scheduling changes conflicted with their events, forcing some students to switch events.

    “Normally, this would be alright, but because we just found out, some people have to learn a whole new event to States level in just two weeks,” Wang said. “I have to learn in less than two weeks what some people learned over the course of three years.”

    The team is trying to combat this change, hoping that they can still excel despite the surprise.

    “Everyone is doing their best to do their own part, lighten the load on us, but we also can’t invest as much time on our other events,” Wang said. “We are hoping we can get to the point where the shift does not affect us but definitely it is going to be a challenge.”

    Senior team captain Alice Zhang is also optimistic about their chances, noting that the team overcame great hurdles with the departure of their former advisor Ron Bowditch and the loss of many seniors who graduated.

    “Last year, we lost the bulk of our talented engineering sector, and we are trying our best to find our way around these engineering events without a ton of experience,” Zhang said.

    However, she is not worried that this will have a significant impact on the overall team, believing in the strength of the other events.

    “The success of our team’s study events allowed for a bit of leeway in engineering events,” Zhang said. “This year, the team’s strength definitely lies in our preparation for study events. This year have some extremely talented and hardworking pairs participating in events that they truly enjoy studying, and the amount of work they put into preparing shows in the competition’s outcome.”

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