Ocean Bowl squad heads to national tournament in Seattle

The dull hum of the buzzers drones as 10 high school students conjure oceanic knowledge accumulated after hours of poring over books, maps, graphs, bills, virtually anything ocean related.

This is Ocean Bowl.

Or at least it is for the DHS National Ocean Science Bowl team, which is gearing up for the national competition in Seattle, Wash. after leveling Greenhills, the defending national champions, 83-21 in the regional final on Saturday, Feb. 1 at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment building.

Senior Captain Graham Northrup along with juniors Noah Knoerl-Morrill, Alex Smearage and sophomores Will Wendorf and Ryan McGinnis nabbed Dexter’s ninth regional victory in 15 years of competition.

Adviser and science teacher  Cheryl Wells said she felt satisfied with the victory but denied any personal vendetta against Greenhills.

“No, I don’t know who told you that,” she said. “I actually have known this coach for many years, and he’s a great guy.”

But she did say she could see how other teams might misinterpret her and her team’s determination at regionals as hostility.

“What I do is when we get to regionals, my team stays focused, we’re not real friendly and we really get into that competitive mindset,” she said.

Part of Dexter’s prolonged success comes from Wells’ choice to remain vague about her success when other teams ask.

“They’ll ask me things like, ‘How does your team does so well every year?’  And I’ll say things like, ‘Oh I feed them every day after school.’”

But all jokes aside, Wells and her team train hard every year to maintain their reputation as one of the top ocean bowl teams in the region.

Wells went on, “But I don’t say, ‘Oh, well you’ve got to start practicing months in advance, and on snow days you have to go to Foggy Bottom and study, like we do.  And you have to have a book cart full of books on a wide range of subjects, and you have to do your homework at night.  And you have to be well-read.  These kids read everything–the geology, geography, the history, the marine law, the chemistry, the physics, the biology, and they’ve got to know all of it.”

Dexter has participated in the National Ocean Science Bowl under Wells’ supervision since the organization started in 1998, and its team won regionals that first year and has been to eight national competitions.

Attending the first competition sounded an alarm for Wells.

“It alerted me to the fact that we don’t live on a beach, or see a tide every day.  As a Great Lakes state, we didn’t really have the familiarity with the ocean as a lot of the coastal teams did,” she said.

To compensate, Wells said she makes sure the team is prepared for success.

According to Wendorf, “She usually reads questions and then has presentations that she’ll read off to us.  And she’ll organize the team and tell us what to read, stuff like that.”

Dexter’s team remains busy with preparing nationals.

“We’re going to keep working and studying hard on a broad range of topics,” Wells said.  “Nautical knots, reading nautical flags, nautical bell time, nautical talk, parts of a ship. It’s a wide range.”

The plethora of topics covered enticed sophomore Ryan McGinnis to join the team.  He says that participation in ocean bowl as a sophomore will have long term benefits.

“There’s a lot of information we cover that I wouldn’t come across anywhere else,” he said. “And also it’s great from a college perspective, because I want to go into oceanography. It’s invaluable because we’re going to nationals, and there will be college staff scouting out potential recruits, so it’s a really great college and beyond opportunity.”

Though the team is excited to compete at the national competition, they have already accomplished their season’s objective, according to Northrup.

“This year the goal was to win regionals,” he said.  “Anything more is just icing on the cake.”