Monday, March 5, 2012

Sea Lion Bowl 2012

ILC's Team Panda arriving at SFSU.

Yep, Ernst wore a panda hat all day too.
It was a beautiful weekend for Sea Lion Bowl 2012, Northern California's qualifier for the National Ocean Sciences Bowl, being held this April in Baltimore. While the weather for last year's competition at San Francisco State University was crisp and sunny, this year it was warm and sunny, sunny and warm! We took our all-girl team down for the weekend, and once again were so impressed with this amazing event.

Picture 16 teams of high schoolers, in all their teenage glory, some from private Bay Area schools near the ocean, and others like ours from public schools far from any large body of water. Representing our area was our team from the Independent Learning Center (ILC) based at Pioneer High School in Woodland and the team from Mira Loma in Sacramento. The final standing? Was the ILC in the hunt for gold, silver or bronze? Well, we were happy to be competitive in our last three events, and the kids pulled off a win in the last of seven rounds, an exact repeat of last year. Just like their mascot, Team Panda is just not a morning team.

The vibe was quite different from Sea Lion Bowl 2011, which as I wrote last year had a distasteful lack of sportsmanship displayed in the final round. What helped this year? Was it the memory of last year? Maybe some strong words from the coaches on how to show a bit more graciousness? Maybe that the Team That Always Wins was not present to compete this year? Whatever the reason, we all left with a better taste in our mouths, which was not due just to the yummy Thai food at the awards ceremony.

After attending this event for several years, I'm getting quite good at playing, if only in my head. The night before the bowl, my husband set up a mock game between me and Team Panda, with buzzers and red lights and the whole deal. I didn't do too badly. From all these years of listening in, I knew how to diagram the positions of the sun, moon and earth during a neap tide as opposed to a spring tide. Wow, what recess of my brain was that information hiding in? And during the event, I knew many of the answers - Isthmus say ISTHMUS! Coriolis Effect!!! No, not the Dead Sea, the answer is Mediterranean Sea, buzz in, buzz in and say Mediterranean!! And phytoplankton - how does that word just come rolling out of my grey matter? (Also, I have learned, if you don't know the answer, just say Jacques Cousteau or sea anemone, depending on the context.) But most of the questions are really difficult and I can't believe teenagers know this subject so well. Fortunately, the teams face away from the audience, so they can't see my stress position - head buried in hands resting on my desk. I'm an assistant coach in name only, I can't take the pressure.

So, once again, good job Team Panda from the ILC. You play nice and you always make us proud. So who won this year's Sea Lion Bowl? The final was a nail biter between Lowell High in SF and Albany High. This year it will be Albany heading to Baltimore for the nationals. Thanks to all involved who give up so much time and effort to inspire these young people to learn about marine science. A special thanks for the hospitality of the Romberg Tiburon Center for allowing Team Panda to bunk down in such nice quarters. We hope to see you again next year.

The Awards Dinner Sigh of Relief

The view from the deck where we stayed.

Our historic home away from home.