Building a Dynasty: Science Olympiad Team Creates a Culture of Success

Brianna Rinn, Writer

It’s the first event of the day. 

Dynamic Planet. 

Southwest isn’t feeling the fatigue of studying the night before through the nerves of the competition. Senior Emily Udell and her partner, junior Rohan Tatineni, know how to work together. 

“We have the testing thing down, I did a lot of identification and chemical processes and he focused a lot on periodization of glaciers and more of the math behind it,” Udell said. 

Pencils scratching. 

Eyes straining. 


All sounds of a State Championship in the making. 

However, this championship is different from any typical NSAA sponsored sport. 

Science Olympiad is made up of 22 events like Codebusters, Circuit Lab and Dynamic Planet. In each of these events, partners take a test together which is graded and scored against other teams. The team with the highest score obtains 11 points, second gets two, and so on. The points between all the events are added up, and the team with the highest score wins. 

Using their unique skill sets, Udell and Tatineni each work on their separate halves, then cross-check. 

The pair is the last in the room, checking their test over and over again. 

After Dynamic Planet, they each move to their next event, where they will have different partners and different topics to cover. Udell moves to her second event, Sounds of Music, which is a part engineering, part study event. Tatineni moves to Codebusters.

At the state competition, teams do not have time to dwell on their previous tests. They must move on to their next events.

 “I didn’t really have any emotions after that because I had to get ready for the next one,” Udell said. 

Udell and her new partner, senior Tuong Phung, apply the same strategy as her and Tatineni. The pages of the test are divided up, worked on, checked, double-checked and triple-checked until the pair is satisfied.

After the test, Udell and Phung meet up with the rest of the team. 

It is time to wait for results. 

The work is done, the testing complete, all that’s left are the results. 

Nerves are high. Udell paces, sitting and standing and sitting back down. The Hawks anxiously await the tests to be scored at UNL. 

“Every hour, I started to lower my standards, you start doubting yourself the more you overthink,” Udell said. 

The LSW team of 15 nervously talks amongst themselves about anything else besides the rigorous testing they just underwent. 

After six long hours of waiting for tests to be graded, they make their way to the auditorium for awards. Here, they will find out whether what they’ve been working for all year will be put to a halt or will continue on to the national competition.

The auditorium is filled with other Science Olympiad students from across the state. 

The team gets noticed as they pass by. When a team is going on nine state championships in a row, it merits a second glance.

“I think Southwest is definitely an intimidating force to compete against,” senior Kylie Sabo said. “Going into State our coaches told us, ’Everyone expects us to win.’ It’s interesting having that expectation on you. There’s a legacy we have to keep up.” 

The two-time State Champion thinks this expectation pushes the team further. This pressure is a positive force.

“We’ve definitely set a culture of winning into Southwest Science Olympiad, and I think since we have that culture so ingrained in us, it’s just expected of us. It leads us to be the best team we can be,” said Sabo.

In the past, this culture has carried them even further than winning state championships. 

It carries them to the national competition.

“We weren’t as focused on State being our end goal, it was more, ‘How high can we place at nationals?’ In order to do that, State was a hurdle we had to jump,” Udell said. 

To clear this hurdle the team would have to place first at the state competition, meaning Southwest would have to score the greatest amount of total team points. 

Third place was announced.

“Lincoln ScFo.”

Second place. 

“Lincoln East.”

And finally, first place.

“Lincoln Southwest.”

The Hawks won 17 out of the 22 events. Leading to their ninth state title in a row. Eleven in 12 years. More than any other activity at Southwest. They flew over the hurdle.

“This year we’re going for what we call a decade of dominance, which will be our tenth state title in a row,” Udell said.