Archive for Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Tonganoxie High Science Olympiad team state champs in small-school division

April 5, 2016

The Tonganoxie Science Olympiad team continues to be a powerhouse in the state.

It also was 3 measly points from showcasing that talent nationally.

THS was crowned the small-school division champion at state Saturday on the Wichita State University campus.

It also was just 3 points behind Olathe North, the overall winner at state. Because ONHS won the overall top spot, it was invited to nationals.

“Our kids did so well, but it was hard not to be a little sad that we missed first in the state,” said first-year coach Kirsten Rhoads. “We were so close. The kids knew we almost had it, even without being told the point difference.”

There were only three schools that scored in the 100s (low score wins): Olathe North at 108, Tonganoxie at 111 and Manhattan at 118. St. James Academy from Lenexa scored 166. Goodland, which scored 273, was second place in Tonganoxie’s small-school division.

Tongaoxie placed first in anatomy (Josh Lingo and Spencer Finkbiner), astronomy (Sierra Staatz and Nick French), chemistry lab (Lingo and Anahi Puebla), disease detective (Finkbiner and Nate Bothwell), experimental design (Lingo, Puebla and Natalie Wolf), forensics (Lingo and Puebla), fossils (Alex Tucker and Nate Bothwell), game on (Wolf and Ethan Sandburg), geologic mapping (French and Jake Tollefson), Write it Do it (Allison Williams and Wolf), Wright Stuff (Tollefson and Allison Williams), wind power (Tollefson and Jack Crow), robot arm (French and Finkbiner), protein modeling (Finkbiner and Staatz) and cell biology (Lingo and Finkbiner).

THS also placed second in air trajectory (Crow and Jared Bothwell), invasive species (Nate Bothwell and Tollefson) and hydrology (French and Sandburg).

And placing third were the dynamic planet team of Staatz and Williams and the Green Generation team of French and Sandburg.

“The whole awards show was surreal,” said Christine Biel, who also coaches the team alongside Rhoads and Tracey Waldeier. “Tonganoxie High School medaled in 20 of the 23 events, which is a record.

“They just kept announcing ‘Tonganoxie High School.’”

Waldeier said the team was driven, especially after finishing ahead of Olathe North at regionals.

“This has been the hardest working group in THS science Olympiad history,” Waldeier said. “We are still celebrating the win.”

The victory came with a trophy, a reminder of the final time a handful of seniors, including Natalie Wolf, Spencer Finkbiner, Joshua Lingo and Jake Tollefson, would be competing.

“I’ve never been prouder of a group of people at THS,” Finkbiner said. “It was a team effort and everybody contributed to our first-place finish.”

Tollefson has been competing since sixth grade and said it was a great way to go out.

“I couldn’t be happier of myself and my team on how we did at regionals and state this year,” he said. “This is by far the best sendoff I will ever get.”

Lingo, who hasn’t been in Science Olympiad as long, echoed the sentiments.

“I couldn’t imagine a better way to end my senior year,” Lingo said. “Even just being around for two years, I can see we are much more than just a team. We are a family.”

The Tonganoxie Middle School team also competed at the state meet. For more about their performance, look for a later story at and in a future print edition of The Mirror.


Kirsten Rhoads 2 years, 8 months ago

I want to congratulate the THS Science Olympiad team on such an outstanding performance at State. I am one of the coaches who was quoted above. However, I need to make a few things clear. I was never contacted directly for a quote for this article and I did not give permission for any statements made in private emails to be used in this article.

I am extremely proud of our kids. They exceeded all expectations and showed the results that can be achieved with hard work and excitement about competition. It is unfortunate that the statement attributed to me in the above article was taken out of context in a private email that was discussing concerns about students who were disappointed with their performances. None of the coaches were disappointed in how our kids performed in any of the events. They gave it their all and we are beyond words with being proud.

The team was headed by strong student leadership in the senior captains. They did a fabulous job in keeping everyone on track and making sure that all events had quality preparation.

I look forward to being able to work with this group in coming years.


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