Monday, February 11, 2013

Lone Shark takes a bite out of the Sea Lion Bowl

Planned for months, this was the weekend for Sea Lion Bowl 2013, held once again at San Francisco State. Our team from the Independent Learning Center in Woodland was as ready as they would be to compete in the Northern California Regionals, which sends a team to the National Ocean Sciences Bowl.

The team started dropping like sand flies on Wednesday night. By Friday, we had only one team member healthy enough to go, a freshman I'll call DR. A call to the organizers encouraged us to come anyway, they would work something out. Although deflated a bit like a flattened puffer fish, we proceeded with the weekend's plans.

Once we reached our digs in Tiberon on a gorgeous Bay Area weekend, Team Lone Shark was no longer flopping like a fish out of water. Our wonderful hosts at the Romberg Tiberon Center gave us the keys to our lovely rooms. I could get used to that place - quiet, clean, historic and charming with the added plus of sea lions barking in the distance. Our fellow guest was a marine biology researcher from Canada who was also volunteering at Sea Lion Bowl. She and Ernst discussed science that was so over my head I didn't even pretend to understand. I decided silence was better than piping in with "Me like sea otters too!"

Having to get up in the dark and leave that place is no fun, but science competitions are like running races and start early. We drove into the city with our one-member team, not knowing what to expect. After the nice breakfast and raucous introduction of the teams, our one surviving ILC competitor was still a fish with no school. The final decision was: Ernst would fill in as a rules judge, DR would join Lodi's Tokay High junior varsity team and I would be the Lone Shark coach. The coach from Tokay was more than Okay. It was nice to spend the day with her cheering on our little group of competitors.

DR is a freshman and he was joining two girls who had just come along to observe. They had never even practiced with the buzzers! Most teams have four with an alternate, they were just three. Their first team was the big tuna of the Sea Lion Bowl, Mission San Jose. While not quite eaten alive, it was a feeding frenzy. Undeterred, they moved on and did fabulous. Out of the seven rounds, they won two, tied one, gave Albany a little scare and came within a minnow's length when playing Sacramento's Mira Loma team. DR's grandparents came for three rounds and saw their two wins. 

Tokay High and ILC joined forces

At the awards ceremony, while Ernst and I feasted on gluten-free pasta, vegan sauce and big green stalks of some sort of healthy vegetable (only in SF) we relaxed knowing that it all went as well as it could have. Surprise surprise when ILC was announced as co-winner of the Team Spirit Award in the JV division! The volunteers recognized the good attitude of DR - coming in as a freshman, having his whole team drop out, joining up with students he had never met or practiced with, actually being competitive and having a great time of it.

Sandy, joining the ILC's 2011 Spirit Award

It was a wonderful experience. I survived as coach and Ernst had a terrific time on the other side of things. Albany High will move on to the nationals. It seems after the attitude of the 2011 competition and the fallout over it in 2012, the mood has relaxed and the top teams are hopefully seeing the "it's only a game" aspect of this all. But you never know, ILC might start circling in next year. Cue up the Jaws soundtrack - has Team Lone Shark survived to swim again?

Anchors away for next year