The Solon High School and Solon Middle School Science Olympiad teams were both second-place award winners last weekend at the 2019 national tournament at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

The middle school, which has taken eight national championships, and the high school, which won the tournament four times, brought home trophies along with numerous medals from this year’s competition.

Solon High School’s Division C and the middle school’s Division B teams each qualified for nationals by winning the state championship in Columbus April 27.

The Science Olympiad National Tournament brought together 60 B teams and 60 C teams, totaling some 2,000 students, which had advanced from state tournaments.

The 35th annual national tournament was held May 31 and June 1.Troy High School in Fullerton, California came in first among Division C teams and Kennedy Middle School in Cupertino, California took first place among Division B teams. Third-place winners were Harriton High School in Rosemont, Pennsylvania, and Community Middle School in Plainsboro, New Jersey.

“I told them to go and be brilliant and they were,” said Solon High School Science Olympiad coach Cherese Fiorina. Coming in second in the nation, she said, wasn’t the work of any one student. “It was a team effort.”

The team’s 15 members and six alternates won their team trophy and four gold medals for individual events after an unusually challenging start. With graduation ceremonies taking place May 30 at Playhouse Square, the bus to the tournament picked up underclassmen at Solon High School, and then headed downtown for graduating seniors to board following commencement. The team arrived at Cornell at approximately 3 a.m.“We’re not complaining,” quipped Ms. Fiorina, who came to the tournament with her sons – assistant coach Nick Maurer and high school team member Scott Maurer; daughter Lindsey, a ninth-grader on the middle school team; and husband Todd Maurer, a volunteer with the teams. Ms. Fiorina acknowledged “the tremendous support we receive from Solon High School, including (Principal) Erin Short, and the board of education.” She also thanked science teacher Tony Sanson, who traveled with the team.

“How proud we are of the students,” said David Brewer, a retired engineer at NASA who’s in his third year as head coach of the Solon Middle School team. “We scored in the top six teams in 13 of the 23 events.” The team received three gold medals and four silver medals. “The kids were really focused and worked hard. Placing in the top three is unbelievable. It sets us apart from thousands of other school systems.”

The team started working in September and attended seven invitational competitions before regionals and states, Mr. Brewer said. He and assistant coach Deepa Nair thanked middle school Principal Scott Hatteberg, the school and board of education for their support.

“It was a nice way to end the season and my eight years in Science Olympiad,” said graduating senior and high school team co-captain Scott Maurer. “The team’s come a long way. They worked hard the entire season and came in state champion.”

Mr. Maurer, who will major in mechanical engineering and “something in earth science” at Case Western Reserve University, received gold medals in the Fossils/Rocks events for the fourth consecutive year at nationals as well as in GeoLogic Mapping. He helped coach the middle school team in Fossils and Herpetology, in which they received gold medals this year.

Michael Zhu, a graduating senior and co-captain, received gold medals in Mousetrap Vehicle and Sounds of Music. The second-place win was amazing, said Mr. Zhu, who will major in computer science at the Ohio State University. However, participation in Science Olympiad brings personal growth and friendship as well, he said. “It would be worth it if we did not compete at all.”

Michelle Park and Ryan Li, who are freshmen at Solon High School, were co-captains of the middle school team. Division B teams generally include seventh through ninth grades. This year, Solon’s Division B team also included sixth-grader William Zheng, who won a silver medal at nationals in Battery Buggy.

“It’s truly an honor getting second at the national tournament,” said Michelle. “It’s an incredible feat.” Michelle, who received a national gold medal in two events, Experimental Design and Herpetology, praised the 15 team members and four alternates as well as “the parents and coaches who helped us along the way.”

“Being in the top three in the nation is not easy and we worked really hard for it,” added Ryan, who received silver medals in Circuit Lab and Game On. “It’s quite an honor. Next year we’re still looking up.”

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