After taking back the state title this year, the Munster High School Science Olympiad team finished among the best of the elite nationally.
Munster High School took 17th nationally, coming in the top third of the 60 schools competing at the Science Olympiad Nationals this weekend at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.
Co-coaches Keith Koszut, Patrick O'Neill and Samantha Ebert led the team of 15 students to a high national ranking.
"It's a big deal," Koszut said. "Every state in the union sends at least one team that wins a statewide competition. Some states with more schools participating send two teams to nationals."
Munster Science Olympians were nervous since the school didn't win any medals by placing in the top six of any of the 23 categories. But the team ultimately fared well because it was balanced, consistently placing well with five top 10 finishes.
The team has won state and been to nationals four times in the last five years. It finished 18th nationally four years ago, then came in 15th and then ranked sixth nationally two years ago.
Last year, Carmel High School down in the Indianapolis suburbs narrowly eked out the state title, beating Munster by just seven points. But Munster bounced back, winning the state title again this year with a school record low of 59 points in the tournament, with 23 points being the best theoretically possible score.
"There's a lot of competition in Indiana between Carmel, Bloomington South, and Lake Central High School, to name a few," Koszut said. "There's a big battle for the top."
After first entering the nationals stage five years ago, Munster's Science Olympiad team has been building on its success. It has been able to recruit because it's one of the few opportunities for high school students to compete at the national level, Koszut said.
"The program is establishing momentum," he said. "More students are interested. In high school, the state is usually the pinnacle, but this happens to be one of the tournaments that has students from all 50 states."