The coach for the Hauser Science Olympiad team predicted in April that the seasoning her junior high students earned from finishing fourth in last year's regional Olympiad tournament would improve its standing in 2017.
The prediction came true. In February, the Hauser team finished first, far outdistancing the rest of the pack in the Bloomington-hosted event, which challenges teams in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.
Every member from the local school earned medals in more than one event.
"They knew what to expect this time," Gaff explained. "Every victory, every medal they earned shows these kids know their stuff."
Hauser's top placing performance earned for the team its second berth in a row at the state competition March 18. The team did well at state last year, though not well enough to earn a trip to the national competition, which would have been the ultimate accomplishment. Gaff said the students this time around are stronger and will prepare in the same way that worked so well before.
The regional competition provided the blueprint.
Gaff said her team practiced together at least twice a week. Specifically, they met until 5 p.m. Fridays and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. They also practiced on their personal time and during school resource periods.
You can't force dedication to a cause. But when you allow students to compete in the fields they love, their dedication is a natural byproduct.
Science lovers choose science events. Math lovers choose math events.
A composite team score determines the winner.
Kaitlynn Everroad, an eighth-grade member of the Hauser team, is on a team that built a scale-model plane that couldn't quite stay airborne for 30 seconds during the regional. She said she and her teammates have spent their time since then modifying the plane in the hope that it can exceed that half-minute mark.
State competition rules specify the plane should fly for a whopping two minutes.
"I feel confident," Everroad said. "If we keep working hard, I think we could be in the top five or the top 15."
Chloe Kennedy, a ninth grade team member, was still trying to absorb the reality of the first-place regional win. But she wasn't surprised, given how hard she and the other team members worked.
"I think we could definitely place at state," said Kennedy, who competes in meteorology, among other events. "We have the determination. Now, all we have to do is put it to use."
Addison Jones, an eighth grader, participated in the scrambler at regional. As such, she built a vehicle that had to run so smoothly for a given distance that it literally wouldn't crack an egg.
"I feel hopeful and positive about going to state," she said.
That optimism and excitement is why the local team expects to perform well, Gaff said. And she added that it is the reason there likely will be a Hauser high school level team added to the mix next year.