VALPARAISO — The Thomas Jefferson Middle School Science Olympiad team is heading to the national competition, winning its 27th state title recently at Indiana University.
Thirty-six teams competed in 23 events March 16.
Thomas Jefferson won 11 of them and finished with an all-time best score of 51 points. The top finishers were Thomas Jefferson, Raymond Park School in Indianapolis; Tri North Middle School in Bloomington; Wilbur Wright Middle School in Munster; and Ben Franklin Middle School in Valparaiso.
Other local teams placing were Chesterton, seventh; St. Patrick School, Chesterton, ninth; Colonel Wheeler Middle School, Crown Point, 14; Taft Middle School, Crown Point, 16; Kahler Middle School, Dyer, 17; Grimmer Middle School, Schererville, 21; Hebron, 22; Westville, 28; Discovery Charter, Westville, 29.
Members of Thomas Jefferson's team are freshmen Micah Nathan, Ethan Hutton, Max Trowbridge, Connor Brandt, Isaac Utesch; eighth-graders Sylvia Rotole and Lily Rengstorf; seventh-graders Susannah Gross, Liam Utesch, Matthew Smith, Tyler Edwards, Karissa Kasper, Lauren Harris and Nick Will; sixth-graders Aliya Mayer and Max Swanson.
TJ students earned first in 11 events, second in four events and third in four events.
This will be the school's 30th straight trip to nationals, set for June 1 at Cornell University in New York. The team won the national title in 1993 and 1996. The team is coached by Richard Bender and Carol Haller.
Bender said there have been so many trips to the national competition because of dedication.
"These are smart, dedicated students who are willing to set high goals and work hard to persevere to achieve them," Bender said. "The students have supportive parents who share in our vision and volunteers to help coach events and help in team support."
In the high school tournament, Munster High School finished as state runner-up this year, just two points behind Carmel High School. The team placed in the top five of 14 schools in 23 total Olympiad events, and placed first overall in five events.
Students taking home the gold medal prize included Griffin Broviak and Stephen Heritage for Geologic Mapping; Justin Lee and Brett Soeka for Mission Possible; Stephen Heritage and Emily Shu for Sounds of Music; Fenry Zhou, Raymond Li and Maverick Broviak for Wright Stuff; and David Bastos and Sophie Hand for Write It, Do It.