Five Huntington High School juniors engaged in intellectual combat against students from across the metropolitan area at the Bay Scallop Bowl at Stony Brook University last weekend. The event served as a regional qualifier for the National Ocean Sciences Bowl.
Huntington juniors Michael McCooey, Noah Morris, Erin Bonitz, Katherine Burton and Christiana DeLuca were impressive, narrowly missing a trip to the national championships in Colorado by the smallest of margins.
Coached by science teachers Matthew Liguori and Dame Forbes, the teenagers finished in second place in the challenging competition, which was sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The competition format featured a morning round robin that saw randomly selected teams from across the metropolitan area separated into divisions and vying against each other to determine seeds based upon overall record and points.
“We started the morning off a little rough with a 2-1 record and were seeded fifth,” Ms. DeLuca said. “Then after winning all of our afternoon matches we were automatically put into the finals. The most stressful part was waiting while other teams hashed it out to compete against us in the final match. The jokes we had been making about winning the competition and going to Colorado were no longer jokes, but a real possibility.”
Huntington was spectacular in the afternoon session, going 3-0 in their double elimination playoff bracket, including an upset of No. 1 seeded and reigning champion, Mount Sinai, 54-28.
The perfect showing during the afternoon gave Huntington a bye as the other teams battled it out to determine who would advance to the finals to face the Blue Devils.
Huntington’s five science warriors waited nervously for 90 minutes to see who their opponent would be. “Mt. Sinai rallied back against many other talented teams to emerge to face us in a rematch in the finals,” Mr. Liguori said.
Since Mount Sinai had already dropped a match to Huntington in the tournament, the rules required it to topple the Blue Devils twice in the finals to advance to the national championships in Colorado in April.
After two grueling rounds, including a first match that was decided by just one question, Mount Sinai repeated as regional champion. Despite falling short of a trip to the national finals, Huntington’s team members and coaches were ecstatic with how the day unfolded.
“It was so nice to see all of our hard work pay off,” said Mr. McCooey, who once again captained the squad. “We are all so excited to come back next year and will continue working hard to get first place.”
Questions in the competition focused on topics that included oceanography, marine biology and ocean policy and ocean conservation, among others.
“Dame and I are so proud of the team, which went from an eighth place finish last year to barely missing the national championship this year,” Mr. Liguori said. “As the team is made up of five juniors, we are so excited for them to return next year as seniors for their last chance at making the national championship. It is rare for a team to return the entire roster year to year, so we expect them to be very competitive yet again next year.”
Mr. Liguori is a Longwood High School graduate. He obtained undergraduate and graduate degrees at Stony Brook University.
“We have participated in this event for the past three years and my teammates and I have never felt more proud of our accomplishments,” Mr. Morris said. “We placed second out of 12 teams in a highly pressurized Jeopardy-style competition. There were a total of 11 rounds, each consisting of two six-minute periods of buzzer questions and a five minute team challenge question, where the four participating members are able to work together to answer specific questions. This event served as more than just a competition. The entire day, we were surrounded by high school students who expressed interest in the ocean, which provided great connections and opportunities for the future. I am extremely proud of all the hard work my teammates and I put into this competition. We will begin preparing for next year’s competition almost immediately and we are all eager to get back to improving our knowledge of ocean science.”
Professors from Stony Brook University’s School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences coordinated the event, volunteering their time throughout the long day.
“What an amazing day,” Mrs. Forbes said. “The kids were so excited and just in disbelief of how well they did. This dedicated group of students have been working together for three years and every year they make herculean advances. It is a pleasure to work with each one of them and we will be back next year seeking an even greater achievement.”
A graduate of Martin Van Buren High School in Queens, Mrs. Forbes holds an undergraduate degree from Howard University and a master’s degree from Stony Brook.
“The National Ocean Science Bowl is an annual competition for high school students and is sponsored by the Washington D.C. based Consortium for Ocean Leadership. Ocean,” according to the competition website. “The objective of the NOSB is to raise awareness and understanding on the oceans and coastal resources among the nation’s high school students. Each year, the NOSB orchestrates 25 regional competitions distributed around the nation’s coastal areas, including the New York City metropolitan area.”