Co-coached by Mount Shasta High School science teacher Donna Chapman and Sisson teacher Dave Schmidt, the team has been meeting once a week for months in preparation for the competition. This is the second year Sisson has put together Science Bowl teams.

In a huge upset Saturday at Simpson University in Redding, Sisson School’s eighth grade Science Bowl team won the Far Nor Cal Regional competition to earn an all expenses paid trip to Washington D.C.

Jacob Chapman, Ella McLean, Toni Jauregui and Skylar Tacbas will now participate in the National Science Bowl in Washington, D.C., April 30-May 4.

Co-coached by Mount Shasta High School science teacher Donna Chapman and Sisson teacher Dave Schmidt, the team has been meeting once a week for months in preparation for the competition. This is the second year Sisson has put together Science Bowl teams.

“It was so worth it to practice for all of those months,” said Jacob Chapman, who also participated last year as a seventh grader. “We were more prepared ... I can’t believe we are going to Nationals!”

Sisson’s seventh grade team, comprised of Sierra Rafuse, Jadyn Pursell, Hunter Harryman and Xander Fugitt also competed Saturday, but didn’t qualify to continue to the semifinals. Donna Chapman met with both teams since December, covering topics in math, chemistry, physics, geology, meteorology and the life sciences.

“We worked tirelessly on answering rapid fire science questions, being able to do math problems in under five seconds, and learning new science concepts each day,” Chapman said.

In the high school division, Mount Shasta High School’s first ever Science Bowl team “did well for newbies,” said their coach, Barbara Paulson. Chris Rees, Darian DeBortoli, Caleb Santi, Josh Bonivert and Elias Rodriguez earned three wins and three losses during the round robin “pool play,” but did not make it to the championship rounds.

A team from University Prep in Redding took first place in the high school competition. U-Prep teams are generally favorites to win both the high school and middle school divisions, said Schmidt.

But not this year. Sisson came back twice in the daylong competition for an exciting, upset finish.

The team lost their first round to Christian Redding by six points, but after that they beat all five teams they went against in round robin play.

“The competition got tougher with each step and the team felt the pressure,” said Chapman. “This team works together so well because they each have strengths in the different fields of science. It was fun to watch them improve in their knowledge and mature into competitors.”

One of the team’s five members, Stuart Craddock, was sick on Saturday and was unable to compete.

An upset win

Down after the first half of the competition 20-8, Jacob Chapman interrupted the moderator (which can result in a penalty) but answered the question correctly. This awarded the team four points and gave them a chance at a bonus question, said Schmidt.

The bonus question was answered correctly by McLean for 10 points The team answered another toss up question shortly after that and held on for the first place with a 26-20 win against U-Prep.

“We had to compete against six different teams during the morning’s pool play,” explained Donna Chapman. “The rounds consist of two eight minute competitions. A moderator asks a question and both teams get five seconds to hit a buzzer and answer.”

If the answer is correct the team gets four points and the chance to answer a bonus question that is worth 10 points.

“The rules are rigid – you lose points if you answer before the moderator acknowledges you or if you are talking during the questioning period,” said Chapman. “If you blurt out the answer the other team gets the points. We had to work a lot on not blurting, which hurt the team last year when they competed as seventh graders.”

When the team realized they were in the final round they were “ecstatic and nervous,” said Chapman. She pointed out that the competition was held in Simpson’s gymnasium, in front of hundreds of people.

Schmidt, who has been coaching basketball for Sisson for 33 years, said the way the Science Bowl is formatted makes for exciting moments, comparable in many ways to sports.

During one of the breaks when the team was behind, “team MVP” Ella McLean went behind the stage and began falling apart, Schmidt said.

“I told her we just needed to get one question right to be right back in it, and that’s what we did,” said Schmidt, adding that the questions are difficult, even for adults.

“I remember telling my team both times (we were behind), “Don’t worry, we always do better after halftime,” said McLean.

The annual Far Nor Cal Regional Science Bowl competition was hosted by Redding Electric Utility and made possible by numerous volunteers and sponsors. Some 46 teams from 29 schools entered the competition from eight northern California counties, including Butte, Del Norte, Glenn, Humboldt, Lassen, Modoc, Shasta, Siskiyou, Tehama, and Trinity.

The team will now move on to the National Science Bowl, which is a four-day trip, said Schmidt. Because it’s sponsored by the Department of Energy, the team will have the chance to tour all of the national monuments and hear from various guest speakers, including the U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette.

“They really go out of their way to make (the experience) neat for the kids,” said Schmidt. “Any time you see students get so excited about academics, it’s a good thing.”

During the competition, Sisson’s team will face 47 other middle school teams from the country.

“The competition will be fierce but the experience will be extraordinary,” said Donna Chapman.