Socorro’s Sci-Oly students among the best in the state

The Cottonwood Valley Charter School Science Olympiad team rallies around their state championship trophy. The team will now compete in the national final at Caltech in May.
Photo courtesy of Tommie McSherry

Weeks and months of preparation for the New Mexico Science Olympiad State Finals paid off for Socorro STEM students who put on an impressive display at the annual event at New Mexico Tech the February 25 and 26.

While Socorro High School placed third in Division C, the Cottonwood Valley Charter School team won the state championship in Division B.

With a final score of 118, CVCS beat second place Albuquerque Academy (121) and third place Albuquerque Area Homeschoolers (136).

Daniel Bowles and Anastasia Zagrai of CVCS work on their trebuchet before the competition.
Photo courtesy of Tommie McSherry

Cottonwood Valley head coach Tommie McSherry said his team was “beyond thrilled” to win the state title.

“After spending last school year largely in isolation and not participating in SciOly at all, we really enjoyed our season this year,” McSherry said. “It was great to see students coming together again, in person, enjoying each other’s company and sharing an enthusiasm for science and engineering.”

McSherry congratulated the students for their commitment.

“Kids put a ton of effort into preparing for competitions by studying and building,” she said. “For the past few weeks, we have spent four to seven hours practicing after school and many students are also studying from home.

“I have awesome coaching support from Greg Spitz, who supports our builders (students participating in the bridge, mousetrap car, trebuchet, mission possible and wright stuff), and Denise Gilson who helped students design, build and tune a musical instrument,” she mentioned. “They decided to build a xylophone.”

CVCS topped Crimebusters (1st-James Si and Anastasia Zagrai), Rocks and Minerals (1st-Abby Cadol and Kathleen Johnson), Crave the Wave (2nd-Niki Planck and Kailyn Woods), Food Science (2nd-Anastasia Zagrai and Daniel Bowles), Mission Possible (2nd-Logain Aguilar and Geovanni Vazquez), Ping Pong Parachute (2nd-Timur Aitbayev and Riley Sewell).

The CVCS team earned third place in BioProcess Lab, Electric Wright Stuff, Green Generation, and Ornithology.

High School Sky Sessions Socorro and Angelica Jacquez won second place in the Bridge Building event.
Photo courtesy of Azza Ezat

There were 21 teams from four regions participating in the High School Division, and Socorro High School took third place overall with a respectable score of 114. Cueva High School came out on top with an overall score of 83, and in second place Albuquerque Academy finished with 92.

The SHS team obtained the best results in anatomy and physiology (1er-Elias Zheng and Kilee Mounyo), in astronomy (1er-Rio Sessions and Elizabeth Mollenbrock), in remote sensing (1er-Rio Sessions and Elizabeth Planck) and in Wifi Lab (1st-Elias Zheng and Cody Johnston).

Socorro earned second place in Bridges, Detector Building, Gravity Vehicle, and Rocks & Minerals, and third in Ornithology.

Coach Azza Ezzat said the team will miss senior graduates Elias Zheng, Gavin Spitz, Cody Johnston, Rio Sessions, Kilee Mounyo and Dayzie Whitehorse.

The New Mexico Science Olympiad began in 1986 and is hosted annually by New Mexico Tech. This inter-school academic competition consists of individual and team tests for which students prepare during the school year.

Each team can have up to 15 members, with two “intelletes” competing in most competitions. The two winning teams, Cottonwood Valley Charter School and La Cueva High School, will represent New Mexico at the 38th Annual Science Olympiad National Tournament hosted in partnership with the California Institute of Technology May 9-14 in Pasadena, Calif., and throughout a virtual format.


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