This story was corrected Feb. 14, 2013. An explanation is at the end of the story.
University Park demonstrated why they are the winningest elementary school in the Science Bowl’s 27-year run when they defeated Berwyn Heights 345-135 to advance to the semifinal round and defend its 2011-12 championship title.
“They take it very seriously, and you can see that they have prepared very well, and they worked together seamlessly,” Science Bowl host Dave Zahren said. “They really complemented each other.”
The University Park team, composed of sixth-graders captain Surya Pukazhenthi, Nina McGranahan and Emma Allen, took an early lead and never relinquished it, answering several 10-point questions to build a 145-90 lead by the end of the first half.
“I tried to pick the smaller point values, 15 or 10, to get some points, and then picked the larger point questions to really get ahead at the end,” said Pukazhenthi, a veteran of last year’s championship team.
It worked to University Park’s advantage that their opponents, captain George Reddon, Tessa Thomas, both sixth-graders and Calder Baldwin-Bott, a fifth-grader, often buzzed in quickly without a clear answer, Zahren said.
“What you do then is you just give the other team more time to think about the question and formulate an answer,” Zahren said.
Their ability to break down Greek words used in science helped University Park on a number of occasions, such as when Nina answered “unicorn” for a fictional monoceros and stated that an animal that was polyphagus meant it had a varied diet.
Nina said she knew “poly” meant many, from her study of polynomials in math class, and that helped her figure out the rest.
“The fact that the students could parse those words and call on their knowledge of prefixes and suffixes, and Latin and Greek, that’s really satisfying to us because that scientific literacy is part of what we’re trying to encourage,” Zahren said.
The team prepared twice a week under the supervision of sponsor Geoff Favero, who has led University Park to four of its five championships in his decade as the team sponsor, by studying previous Science Bowl episodes, playing mock games and studying science articles in newspapers and elsewhere.
They were helped considerably, Favero said, by having alternates Rory McKeown, Bryana Rowley, Elyse Carey and James Dawson.
Favero said he was proud his team continued to meet and practice even when he was out on paternity leave a couple weeks ago.
Berwyn Heights advanced to the elimination game by defeating Melwood Elementary in Upper Marlboro, coming back after trailing in the first half to win 250-190.
The Melwood team, led by sixth-graders captain Jamie Petty, William Dieng and Noah Oxley, took a 10-point lead before the end of the first half but lost it when Berwyn Heights opened the second half with a number of high-point answers.
University Park defeated Bowie’s Northview Elementary 350-170 earlier in the day, despite a strong surge by captain Zion Gladden, Fillipp Salvador and Kai Merriman in the second half.
With the win, University Park earned the third of four berths for the semifinal round, where it will play the winner of next week’s elimination games. That winner will face either Laurel’s Bond Mill Elementary or Glenarden Woods for the championship title in the final match. Both games take place April 16.
Correction: The initial story incorrectly spelled the name of University Park Elementary School’s team captain, Surya Pukazhenthi.