Maui High School's team members waded into the National Ocean Science Bowl competition last weekend in Baltimore unsure if they could tread water with the best in the nation.
They left knowing that they belonged in the same pool.
The Hawaii champions finished sixth in the nation, tying the best finish by an Ed Ginoza-coached team, and narrowly lost to the team that finished second in the competition.
The Maui High School Ocean Bowl team poses at the Sheraton City Center Hotel in Baltimore last weekend during the National Ocean Science Bowl competition. The team, which finished sixth in the nation, included Bryson Galapon (front from left), Christopher Kim, Steven Okada, Ryan Vidad and Gabe Salazar (standing left) and coach Ed Ginoza.
Going into the contest held April 19 to Sunday at the Sheraton City Center Hotel, the five-member team was hoping to make it into the double-elimination round, something last year's state champion Punahou could not do, said Ginoza. By the end of the competition, there was some disappointment that they had not gone further.
"The kids found out we are just as good as the kids from Mainland schools," said Ginoza, Maui High Science Bowl coach since the birth of the competition a decade ago. "This team is as talented as anything I've seen."
As team members watched the final round with North Carolina's Raleigh Charter High School, the team that eliminated them, and eventual champion, Wisconsin's Marshfield High School, Ginoza said that his team could have answered most of the questions.
"I felt the kids could compete with the best in the country, and the kids felt the same way," said Ginoza, who took his fifth team to the nationals.
In the pool play, Maui High went undefeated, taking down Loveland High School of Colorado; Marine & Oceanographic Academy of Florida; Dutch Fork High School of South Carolina; and Friday Harbor High School of Washington.
After making its required presentation on offshore renewable energy, Maui High found itself seeded second out of the 25 teams. Then in its first double-elimination match, the Sabers lost to the Loveland team that they had beaten by nearly 50 points in pool play.
Freshman Christopher Kim explained that the questions had gotten more difficult, and that they were a bit unlucky. Ginoza said that sometimes teams are familiar with the questions and sometimes they are not, and the latter was the case for his team in the match. The coach added that all of the teams are regional champions and of top-notch quality.
Facing elimination with a second loss, the Maui High team peeled off a series of wins over Dexter High School of Ann Arbor, Mich.; Long Beach High School of California; and Albany High School, California.
The next match against Raleigh Charter included a bit of controversy. Questions used in a previous match involving the North Carolina team ended up in its match with Maui High. After the Raleigh team noted the problem, a new set of questions were brought in, which were easier than those appearing in other double-elimination matches, said Ginoza.
"It was so easy I knew most of the answers," he said.
With the easier questions, the match turned into a "speed game," with teams interrupting the questioners to offer up answers.
"It wasn't who was better but who can play better," Ginoza said.
"We were so accustomed with playing with harder questions," said Kim, adding that the other team was able to adjust faster.
Raleigh won two more matches, including one against Marshfield, but in the winner-take-all final match, the North Carolina team fell.
"It was bittersweet,"said Kim. "We thought we could have done so much better. There are always regrets in competitions of this sort.
"Most of us were disappointed, but thinking back we are all pretty proud . . . to represent our state. . . . We didn't think we would make sixth place."
Kim and most of his team will be back next year. Ryan Vidad is the only senior. Returnees include junior and Capt. Steven Okada and sophomores Bryson Galapon and Gabe Salazar.
"We're shooting for first place next year," said Kim.
* Lee Imada can be reached at email@example.com.