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TrekNorth Envirothon qualifies for nationals — again

BEMIDJI — The TrekNorth Envirothon team scored a two-peat Monday as it won first place in the state Envirothon competition, securing the team a repeat appearance in nationals.

“It’s great. We’re so happy. They all work so hard,” said Jennifer Roy, a TrekNorth science teacher and Envirothon coach.

Through Envirothon — “kind of like a knowledge bowl for environmental science” — teams of five compete by answering questions about environmental science and making an oral presentation, Roy said.

On Monday, the state competition was held at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn., as 26 teams competed for the chance to go to nationals.

The TrekNorth team — seniors Hannah Lash and Hannah Marty, junior Annikka Roy and sophomores Isaiah Chalmers and Lily Fulton — was named the top team in the state.

While less than a point separated the teams that finished from third to fifth place, TrekNorth was nine points ahead of the second-place team.

“They really, really did well,” Roy said, noting that TrekNorth received a perfect score in the oral round.

Progressing through stations, teams answered questions about environmental science. Each station focused on an aspect of science: soil, aquatics, wildlife, forestry and current events. The current event topic, which also dictates the topic of the oral presentation, changes every year. This year’s topic was rotational grazing and pasture management.

Roy said the TrekNorth team was unsure about how it did because the wildlife station was particularly difficult. Later, students learned that all of the teams struggled at that station. Typically, a high score is between 20 and 25 points (25 being a percent score), but the high score from that station was 13.5.

“We felt pretty good as we went through some of the stations … and they felt like they did really well on the (oral) presentation, which is worth more than the stations, but you just never know,” Roy said.

Only the top-ranking team advances to nationals. Roy said TrekNorth, after reaching nationals last year, was dedicated to working toward a return trip this year, meeting as often as four times a week after school, on Saturdays and during lunch breaks.

“I’m so impressed with the commitment that they’ve made,” she said. “It’s a great bunch of kids. I love spending time with them.”

The 2013 North American Envirothon is set for Aug. 4-9 at Montana State University in Bozeman, Mont. Roy said the two seniors on TrekNorth’s team will not yet have left for college, so they will be available to complete.

Roy started TrekNorth’s Envirothon team four years ago, after observing a competition and thinking it was the type of activity at which her students would perform well.

She was right: Of its four years, TrekNorth’s Envirothon team has qualified for state each year and now boasts two national-qualifying teams.

“I thought our kids could do this,” Roy said, “and they have.”