Ocean Science Buzzes Its Way to the Top

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Ocean Science team revels in victory after the Scallop Bowl.

By Samuel Makarovskiy ’16

In the interest of full disclosure, Samuel Makarovskiy is a member of the Ocean Science Team

First place at the Bay Scallop Bowl administered by Stony Brook University on Saturday, March 5 went to Midwood’s Ocean Science Team. Every year 16 teams from across the state participate at this regional competition of the National Ocean Science Bowl sponsored chiefly by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Simply put, teams of four players compete against one another in rounds consisting of  two “team challenge questions” at the beginning and a 6 minute buzzer round at the end.  During buzzer questions, multiple-choice questions are read until a team answers one correctly, and that team can collaborate on a short answer bonus question to score additional points. Team challenges are timed worksheets that require all four players to cooperate and think critically to answer the prompts. The team with the most points at the end of the final buzzer round wins.

The day began at 5:45 in the morning at Midwood on Saturday for the coaches, competitors, and spectators as they boarded the bus to Long Island.

“Midwood has sent a team to the Bay Scallop Bowl for seven years with nothing higher than last year’s third place finish, but I have a gut feeling this year is going to make Midwood history,” said A-Team coach Mr. Alan Stack.

This year Midwood, once again, had the opportunity to bring an A- and a B-Team to compete.

“Having a B Team gives the underclassmen a chance to experience the competition and work through their nerves, so they don’t have to go in blind when they compete for the win next year,” said A-Team Captain Andrew Li ’16.

In the second round, it was Midwood v. Midwood which was the friendliest competition either team faced that day. A-Team and B-Team coaches Mr. Stack and Ms. Kimberly Lau shook hands cheerfully, and the round was off. Unfortunately, A-Team quickly took control and won comfortably 114-17, but nonetheless everyone was all smiles.

A-Team had trouble early on in the second seed against the underdog Bellport and was only up by four points (less than one question pair) after the team challenges. Fortunately, in the final buzzer round the Hornets pulled through and won deceivingly comfortably at 73-36.

“Incorrect interrupts almost cost us there, and although we won, it should have been much cleaner,” said Li nervously.

However, the real story was seventh seed B-Team set to face tenth seed Stuyvesant High School in Round 4. This was higher stakes than usual because it was single elimination, so a loss here meant a team would be booted from competition. Despite giving it their all, B-Team fell to Stuyvesant by just over 10 points leaving the remaining eight teams in a double elimination tournament.

“Although, I’m disappointed to lose, today made me want to place higher when we come back next year,” stated B-Team co-captain Jennifer Phu ’17

As luck would have it, A-Team would face Stuyvesant in Round 5. A-Team gritted its teeth for a grudge match but led handily early on keeping Stuyvesant to zero until the team challenges. By the end, Midwood won 102-40.

“That wasn’t too bad because we focus exclusively on ocean science,” explained A-Team player Bart Rosenzweig ‘16, “But their team was visibly just a general science team which gave us the edge.”

Round 7 pitted Midwood against the first seed, host, and returning champion Mount Sinai High School. There was a crowd of Midwood and Sinai spectators watching this winner’s bracket final that pitted two undefeated goliaths against each other. It was tied at 24 following the first toss up round, but the Hornets trailed at the end of the two team challenges. It was close when the Hornets came to within 6 half-way through the final buzzer round, but an interrupt cost them four points. They fell 57-71.

“We tried hard, but we could’ve been faster,” remarked A-Team player Joseph Parziale ’16.

This defeat left Midwood to face the winner of the losers bracket. There, in Round 8, Midwood faced Stuyvesant for a rematch. It went the same as the first match; A-Team picked up points left and right leading the whole way through and winning by over 30 points.

“That loss could’ve demoralized us, but instead we powered on and got our momentum back,” exclaimed A-Team alternate Austin Siu ’16.

That left Midwood with one loss versus undefeated Mount Sinai in Round 9. The Hornets needed to win twice in a row to win it all, and that was no small task.

The six minutes of the last round began to tick down, and Midwood buzzed in correctly and converted a bonus to come back within two at 38-40, but Sinai quickly tied with two minutes left in the round.

“They were neck-and-neck, and there were less than two minutes left,” said Ms. Lau, “My eyes were glued to the stage, and my nails were clawed into my chair. I can only imagine how the team members on stage were feeling.”

  After a few incorrect responses on both sides, Midwood broke the tenuous tie and took a 52-48 lead with only 30 seconds left. Sinai needed one question to tie and could win with a bonus.

The moderator began to read. It was about the Portuguese man o’ war’s anatomy. The reader got to the second choice; there was a buzz, interrupt, recognition, an answer and silence. Time was at five seconds. The reader looked down at the screen. He looked back up and said, “INCORRECT.” There was a hush in the crowd. Minus four from Mount Sinai. Mr. Stack threw his hands into the air. Their player one held his head in his hands. Time ran out. Midwood got a full reread and answered correctly. There was applause. The bonus question was foregone. The reader kept reading, but time was out. The timekeeper yelled, “GAME.” It was Sinai-44 and Midwood-56.

“There it was; Midwood had won, and I couldn’t believe it,” gasped Ms. Lau, “I had to wait for the announcer to be sure.”

“These guys put in years of work and it paid off in full,” said spectator, alumna, and former captain Helen Wong ’15.

Next stop for Midwood is nationals in North Carolina in late April.

“I knew they could do it,” concluded Mr. Stack. “I couldn’t be happier for them and what their victory will mean for the school for years to come.”

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