By winning second place in the middle school division at the State Science Olympiad Tournament in Champaign, Illinois, in April, the 15-member varsity team from Marie Murphy School qualified to compete in the national tournament at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on May 21, where the team also placed second in the nation – the varsity team’s highest ever national finish. Last year, Marie Murphy School finished fifth at the nationals. Of the fifty-nine other teams from around the country that competed this year at the nationals, the Marie Murphy School varsity team came in only 14 points behind the first-place team from Ohio. This year’s second-place finish is quite impressive, considering that there are over 6,000 middle school Science Olympiad teams in the country, and most of the other schools competing in the national tournament were much larger than Marie Murphy.
The most medals Marie Murphy School’s varsity team won at previous national competitions were in six events. This year, the team broke their record and medaled in seven events, and every eighth-grader won at least one medal. The medals were awarded for first to sixth place, and individual medalists at this year’s national competition included the following varsity team members and their events: First-place winners Michael Rivkin and Solena Rizzato for Awesome Aquifer, Vivian Jou and Jason Lee for Bottle Rocket, and Alexander Chen and Rene Chen for Can’t Judge a Powder; second-place winners Rene Chen, Stephanie Chen and Josh Park for Experimental Design; third-place winners Vivian Jou and Solena Rizzato for Meteorology; fourth-place winners Alexander Chen and Aiyappa Kodendera for Storm the Castle; and sixth-place winners Sahar Bhai and Leah Rivkin for Crimebusters. Marie Murphy School’s varsity team members include Sahar Bhai, Alexander Chen, Rene Chen, Stephanie Chen, Vivian Jou, Aiyappa Kodendera, Jason Lee, Lauren Newmark, Josh Park, Leah Rivkin, Michael Rivkin, Solena Rizzato, Jonah Wolfe, Clara Yam and David Yan.
Also attending this year’s national competition was the 14-member junior varsity team, of which four members competed in two events: David Pollak and Daniel Belknap for Mag Lev, and Regina Madanguit and Andrea Wei for Wright Stuff Capacitor. The ten other junior varsity members include Paul Farcasanu, Katherine Ho, Youngjin Kim, Jamie Knippen, Samantha Mori, Ethan Wirth, Tony Xu, Carissa Yang, Samantha Yang and Chelsea Ye.
The four coaches, who continue to inspire the very best from their students, include Mr. James Gravagna, Mr. Darren Persino, Mr. Peter Ogden and Ms. Shannon Wright. Mr. Gravagana said, “Our team’s success at the nationals this year is really owed to our eighth-grade students. After finishing second at state, they not only committed to work harder themselves, but they inspired and pushed the rest of the team to do better, as well.” This year’s parent volunteer coaches included Mr. John Chen, Mr. Herng-Jeng Jou, Mr. Changappa Kodendera, Ms. Hui-Chen Li, Dr. Anne Nagle, Dr. Geraldine Newmark and Mr. Rory Wolfe.
Marie Murphy School Principal Dr. Deanna Reed said, “This is one of the most outstanding team achievements I have personally witnessed in my middle school career, and it is truly a climaxing chapter in Avoca’s long history of academic excellence. Everyone in the school applauds the team’s collective accomplishments over the course of the season, and we also commend our outstanding coaches and parents for their essential contributions of leadership and time to the program.” Inspired by Marie Murphy School’s efforts to stimulate interest in science among children at a young age and pave the way for future scientists, Lundbeck Inc., a pharmaceutical company based in Deerfield, made a $5,000 contribution for a second year in a row to support the students’ trip to the national competition. This is an exciting example of a school/business partnership.