PIQUA — Last month, Fort Loramie Science Olympiad competed in the Piqua Regional competition against 18 other teams from the area.
With a fifth place finish at the regional competition, Fort Loramie High School’s Science Olympiad qualified for state; this makes four years in a row Fort Loramie has qualified. At the regional competition, every member of Fort Loramie’s team earned a medal in at least one event.
Top finishers at Regionals for Fort Loramie were as follows:
• First place, experimental design: Jake Rethman, Joe Ballas, and Evan Eilerman.
• First place, fermi questions: Jake Rethman and Adam Ballas.
• Second place, protein modeling: Joe Ballas, Angel Rodriguez, and Anna Detrick.
• Third place, anatomy and physiology: Joe Ballas and James Keller.
• Third place, disease detectives: Nora Beresik and Angel Rodriguez.
Each year, there are over 300 teams in the state of Ohio who compete in Science Olympiad, making it one of the most competitive states in the nation. In Science Olympiad, teams are not divided based on school size as they are in athletics; all high schools compete against each other and all junior high schools compete against each other. Only 40 teams from junior high and 40 teams from high school qualify for the state competition each year.
Fort Loramie’s team consists of 11 high school students and three junior high students.
“The fact that we’re able to qualify for state when we didn’t even have a full team (a full team is 15 students), we had five students who had never participated in Science Olympiad before, and we had junior high students competing at a high school level, really speaks to the effort of our students,” said coach Abby Lightle.
Senior and four-year member of the team Joe Ballas spoke of helping out some of the younger, newer team members throughout the season.
“This year, I think mentoring and teaching the underclassmen had to be a major theme, especially since the team had so many new members,” he said. “It has been awesome to see them grow and learn in their science knowledge.”
While Science Olympiad is about learning, ultimately it is still a competition and it puts a different spin on education and STEM.
“I enjoy Science Olympiad because it is different than just being in the classroom learning,” said second-year member and eighth-grader Austin Pleiman. “You are at other schools competing based on your knowledge of a science topic.”
Ballas emphasized the importance of both learning and competition.
“I love science, and I believe in its capability to have a positive impact on the world, and Science Olympiad is one place where I have had the opportunity to expand on that interest in science,” he said. “It’s especially cool to meet people from different communities that also have a similar passion for science; it’s like a big community.”
There are three seniors who help lead the way this year, including Joe Ballas, Jake Rethman, and Lydia Stricker. Additionally, juniors Nora Beresik and James Keller have made big contributions to the team’s success.
Angel Rodriguez is the lone sophomore on the team, but she is joined by five freshmen, including Anna Detrick, Evan Eilerman, Adam Keller, Luke Meyer and Isaiah Scheer.
Eighth-graders Adam Ballas, Austin Pleiman and seventh-grader Ashlee Hess rounded out the team this year and helped the team pull off another state qualification.
The team also benefited from the support of parents, donations from some anonymous members of the community, the Meyer Family, and Select Arc.
As an academic club, Science Olympiad has to raise their own funds for everything.
To help with this, students worked at the Dairy Barn during Liberty Days this past summer. Dan and Chris Meyer have run the dairy barn at Liberty Days for several years, and this year the Meyer family allowed the team to work the barn and donate the proceeds to Science Olympiad. Money from the dairy barn and donations from Select Arc, who has sponsored the team for years, helps take the load off the students.
The team celebrates qualifying for state with a team dinner organized by parents the week of state; the bus gets decorated; students receive goodie bags; there’s a clap-out from school; and students get special shirts for state.
Lightle said she tries to work with parents to make it a memorable experience for the students.
“Sports are great. I played sports, and I currently coach softball. But, we tend to hear about and celebrate the accomplishments of athletes far more than we celebrate or recognize academic accomplishments,” she said. “So I try to make sure that when we achieve something noteworthy in Science Olympiad, students feel appreciated and celebrated just as much for their academic accomplishments.”
While it is a fun and memorable experience, the competition at State Science Olympiad is always kicked up a notch.
In his final year of Science Olympiad, Ballas has one goal in mind.
“For the past couple years I have been in events with 10th to 13th place finishes countless times, but I have never been able to bring home that top eight medal finish,” he said. “I want to have one last shot at that before I’m done.”
Saturday, April 27, he, along with the rest of the Fort Loramie Science Olympiad team, will get that shot.