Coming off two years in a row of taking home the first place trophies at the Sacred Heart Invitational Science Olympiad competition, Ridgefield High School’s Science Olympiad team plans to compete at virtual competitions across the nation in the coming school year.

Science Olympiad Team Co-Presidents Kenneth Choi and Molly Christel plan to register the team to compete at the University of Texas Invitational, the Rickards Invitational, the Yosemite Invitational, the Yale University Invitational, the Sacred Heart University Invitational, the UConn state competition, and possibly more. The goal is to give RHS competitors more opportunities to be recognized for their passion and excellence in STEM subjects.

Every year, Sacred Heart University and Yale University each host a Science Olympiad competition, drawing teams from all over the Northeast. Competitors work in pairs or groups of three to demonstrate their mastery of topics all across the STEM spectrum. The 2019-20 school year’s overall categories were Life Science, Earth and Space Science, Physical Science, Engineering, and Scientific Inquiry, with brand-new events such as Ornithology and Machines offering a fresh challenge to the participating teams.

In addition to the team first place at the Sacred Heart Invitational, RHS students also won many individual medals in the 2019-20 competition. Kenneth Choi, Jack Hudson, and Nico Mantione brought home three medals, while Questin McQuilkin and Ethan McKean each won two medals for the team. Additionally, Alena Alexander, Anirudh Krishnan, Matthew Brooks, Ian Murdock, Hailey DeWalt, Benjamin Zou, Ben Sakdinan, Ellen Maerean, Isabel McKean, Daniel Donavon, Nicholas Dillon, Alec Rodriguez, Liam Flaherty, Danlin Luo, and Keelan McQuilkin each won a medal in their events.

The newly-formed East Ridge Middle School Science Olympiad team also competed at Sacred Heart alongside the RHS team in its first-ever competition. The ERMS team took on the challenge and placed fourth out of all Connecticut teams in the middle school division.

Ridgefield’s victory at Sacred Heart was a critical confidence boost for the RHS team heading into the Yale University Invitational the following weekend. At Yale, the RHS team placed 1st out of all Connecticut teams. Questin McQuilkin won two medals, while Jack Hudson, Molly Christel, Benjamin Zou, Frederick Whipple, Ben Sakdinan, and Joyce Li each won one medal. The club, mentored by coaches Ashley Smith and Sarah Bentley, was pleased to see its hard work pay off.

The RHS team hoped to continue its winning streak and strove to qualify for the National Science Olympiad competition held at North Carolina State University. The team practiced multiple times a week for the state finals at UCONN, reviewing their past errors and searching for the hardest exams to test their knowledge. However, on March 11th, the Connecticut Science Olympiad organization sent out an important message: “Due to the [COVID-19] outbreak, both the middle school and the high school Science Olympiad tournaments have been postponed until further notice.”

Similarly, Science Olympiad Inc. encouraged other states to cancel or postpone their events. Eventually, all 50 states shut down their competitions, according to the soinc.org webpage. While RHS competitors were disappointed about losing the chance to show off their knowledge and skills, they understood that safety must come first.

In the end, RHS’s team went out on a high note. “It’s an unfortunate end to a promising season,” said two-year club co-president Kenneth Choi, “but we’re optimistic about the club’s future. I am hopeful that next year will bring even more success to our teams.”

Ridgefield’s Science Olympiad program spans both the middle school and high school levels. All Ridgefield students from 6th to 12th grade are welcome to compete, regardless of their experience in STEM.

For more information about Ridgefield’s Science Olympiad program, visit http://ridgefieldscienceolympiad.wordpress.com/.