Cathedral team wins spirit award at National Science Olympiad

Published 12:15 am Friday, June 7, 2019


NATCHEZ — Last week, Cathedral School’s Science Olympiad Team won the Lockheed Martin Spirit Award during a national tournament at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., which came with a trophy and a cash gift of $2,000 to be used to further the team’s science program.

Ten of the 16 students who participated in the state meet last April went to New York for the final round, including Damira McGruder, Dean Hunstock, Fisher Iseminger, Faith Anne Brown, Lilly Drane, Cate Drane, Mallory Hinson, Samuel Freiberger, Markayla Fleming, Priya Brown and Alex Dale.

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“We are a determined team,” said team member, Markayla Fleming. “We went from 16 members to 10 and we still made it work. We’re used to doing three events one after the other, and some of us skipped meals did about six back to back.”

The tournament tests the students’ knowledge and skills with a variety of competition, some of which must be seen to understand Fleming said.

“In one competition called ‘Write it, Do it,’ my teammate goes into a room, sees a contraption for the first time and writes instructions telling me how to build it,” Fleming said. “You are not supposed to see the finished product, but we did and it was different things sticking randomly out of a bowl, like a feather and straw and a toothpick. I give her props for explaining where things were supposed to go. It was hard.”

While some competitions required building things, such as a model of a protein using Styrofoam spheres and tubes, others required test taking to determine what the students knew about their scientific subject, Fleming said.

“The questions they asked us were next level,” she said, saying the same about the people from across the country she competed against.

“Samuel Freiberger (team captain) and I competed in thermodynamics, and the students we competed against were from larger schools with dedicated Science Olympiad classes with college participation,” Fleming said. “Even though we didn’t place, we still had fun. … I learned a lot about how to interact with people and I learned a lot about other cultures by meeting people from other states … some from as far as Hawaii and even an international group from Japan.”

Hinson, who competed in Code Breaking and Anatomy and Physiology among other challenges, said even after Cathedral’s team won the state competition for three years in a row, she had to up her game to perform well at nationals.

“We had to rebuild models and add a lot more to our binders,” she said.

Fleming said her team’s politeness and Southern hospitality was partly to thank for their winning the team spirit award.

“Two of my teammates were in a timed event and the proctor messed up their timing,” Fleming said. “Any other team would have been down their throats, but my teammates were polite about the whole thing, and said ‘it’s OK.’”

The team experienced other rewards while in New York as a treat for advancing to the national competition, Fleming said, including a four-hour detour to see Niagara Falls.