CRYSTAL LAKE – In their first ever trip to the Science Olympiad state finals, Andrew Wagner and his Cary-Grove High School team showed they belonged.
The team beat more than half its competition, finishing 21st out of 48 teams at University of Illinois over the weekend. The Science Olympiad is a series of competitions that test students' scientific problem-solving skills in fields such as forensics, physics, chemistry, astronomy and more.
"It was a really good experience," said Wagner, coach of the team and Cary-Grove science teacher. "My students were phenomenal and they worked really hard all year. For the seniors, it was a nice end to their careers."
Each team has 15 competitors that often split into groups of two for each individual event. Cary-Grove's best finish in an event was a fifth-place result in the boomilever – a challenge that requires students to construct a wooden device that has one end connected to a wall and must support a weight that hangs on the other end above the floor.
While Cary-Grove celebrated its first trip to the state finals, Crystal Lake Central High School made its ninth trip to the competition in the last 10 years.
The Tigers finished in 13th place, missing out on the coveted top-two spots that secure a trip to the national competition. Perennial powers New Trier High School and Stevenson High School finished first and second, respectively, flipping spots from the 2013 finals.
Crystal Lake Central claimed the top spot in one event when senior Greg Harmon and junior Brian Koch took gold in air trajectory.
Doug Wilbrandt, coach for Crystal Lake Central, said it is great knowing the team can compete with schools that have 3,000 and 4,000 students and said the experience would give returning team members even more confidence and motivation.
"The seniors are reminiscing, but the freshmen, sophomores and juniors are already talking about what they want to do next year," Wilbrandt said. "I'm very proud of all these kids. They deserve tremendous applause for what they've accomplished."
Huntley High School and Jacobs High School also competed in the event, finishing 20th and 33rd, respectively.