Ketchikan High School's two National Ocean Sciences Bowl teams, the Saber-Toothed Salmon and the Saber-Toothed Smolts, are back in the First City after taking fourth and 11th place overall, respectively, at the annual NOSB Tsunami Bowl in Seward this past week.
The teams left Ketchikan last week, arriving in Seward on Thursday to participate in oral presentations, quiz bowl competitions and field trips all through the weekend in Seward. For both the Smolts and Salmon teams, it was their first in-person Tsunami Bowl.
"Overall the kids played their hearts out," coach Keenan Sanderson wrote to the Daily News via email while traveling out of Seward on Monday morning. "As a coach I have a lot I can say about these kids, but I couldn't be more proud of them. They faced a lot of adversity this year, and still produced major results for Ketchikan."
Ketchikan's teams were competing at the Tsunami Bowl against the Geo Schmucks from Cordova High School, The Hot Stuff from Unalaska High School, the Locolithophores from Juneau-Douglas High School, the Smokin' Hot Salmon and License to Chill teams from Dimond High School, the Tectonic Plates from the Mat-Su Valley Career and Technical School, The Sleeper Sharks from Seward High School, The Dopey Dolphins and Super Splash Bros from Bartlett High School, the Sea Sponges from Sitka High School, and the Bad Basses from Eagle River High School.
The Saber-Toothed Salmon finished in fourth place overall, and in third place for the team's research paper titled "Mitigating the Methane Output of Cattle Through Feed Additives." The team also took first place for both oral presentation and research paper.
The Salmon team includes seniors Ellie Pickrell, Kaydence Dyson, Morgan Davis and Kai Biagi, and junior Tiernan Johannsen.
The Saber-Toothed Smolts placed 11th overall at the tournament, and second place overall for their paper "When The Tide Is Out and the Ocean is Not Acidic, The Table Is Set." The Smolts also earned second place for both their oral presentation and research paper.
The Smolts team roster includes freshmen Conor Pearson and Lucas Ramsey, and juniors Romel Del Mundo, Izaak Landis and Mayumi Houser.
The tournament's championship was decided by a round-robin style quiz bowl tournament.
The Salmon team were 3-1 during the event, beating Seward's team 74 to 48, Dimond's team 71 to 42, and Eagle River's students 60 to 51. The Salmon team lost to Cordova, 54 to 46.
The Smolts had a 1-3 record during the round robin event, falling 40 to 47 against Dimond, 35 to 41 against Unalaska, and 54 to 36 against Sitka. The Smolts bested Bartlett with 48 points to Bartlett's 28.
"All of the matches were very close for the Smolts, all within two scores," Sanderson noted. "They hung in tough and showed a lot of promise going forward."
On "Championship Sunday," the Salmon were seeded 2nd, behind Juneau-Douglas. The Smolts were seeded 10th in the elimination bracket.
During the championship, the Salmon team were matched with Sitka.
"It was a close match the entire way," Sanderson described the event. "Halftime it was still tied up. The second half, the Salmon got off to a slow start but started picking up pace towards the end. With about 20 seconds left, the Salmon were down by two points. Tiernan Johnannsen (Kayhi junior) answered a question that would essentially be the equivalent of a 'buzzer beat' in basketball to put Ketchikan ahead and give them the win."
The final score was 54 to 52, in favor of Kayhi's Salmon squad.
For the semifinal round, the Salmon had a rematch with Cordova, falling to Cordova for the second time, 53 to 43 points.
The Salmon were up against the Mat-Su Career and Technical Education School team for the bronze medal match.
"We fell behind before halftime but made some traction towards the end of the game," Sanderson wrote. "We had an opportunity to tie it as time expired with a bonus question, but couldn't come up with the correct response."
Ultimately, the score was 32 to 26 in favor of Mat-Su's team.
"Overall this year's Tsunami Bowl for Ketchikan was a major success," Sanderson wrote. "Ketchikan is bringing back a lot of hardware. The students learned a lot, made new friends all over the state, and made memories that will be with them for years to come."
For senior and Salmon team co-captain Kaydence Dyson, this year was her first and last in-person Tsunami Bowl, as last year's event was held virtually and she will graduate with the Class of 2022 this spring.
"So I kind of had a feel for Tsunami Bowl already, but I was blown away by how much more fun it is to compete in-person and how, how much better the rounds go," Dyson told the Daily News during a Monday afternoon phone interview. "It was just all around, a much better experience than it was last year. It was so much fun."
One of Dyson's favorite parts of the trip was a tour of the University of Alaska Fairbanks research vessel, the Nanuq.
"I think that I just wanna highlight how much fun going to Seward was and how beneficial it is for yourself and learning and getting those experiences and kind of meeting new people around the state," Dyson said. "I mean, so many people and who are like community members or people who traveled there just to help us out. I think it was incredible to see how that community came together to host all of us and then to have helped us along the way."
Ellie Pickrell, also a captain of the Salmon team, said her favorite part of the trip was a visit to the Alaska Sealife Center.
"We also saw a plaque with our mascot on it, the saber-toothed salmon," Pickrell said. "They had a plaque of it there, so that was really cute. Me and Kaydence got to take a picture in front of it."
Pickrell said that the quiz bowl portion of the tournament was stressful.
"Doing it in person for the first time (is) a whole other element of stress, but then on top of that, you know, we wanted to do good, obviously," she said. "So yeah, the pressure was definitely on for me, especially as captain and I'm kind of our main quiz person on the team, so I really had to just dial it in and make sure I was doing my best during those rounds."
As an outgoing senior, Pickrell said she hopes to come back and help out next year's team.
"I just wish more people knew about it as a whole," Pickrell said. "It's a really great program. The people involved are amazing. They all care so much about what they're doing and they really just want to do anything they can to help you reach your goals in science and after school. And it's a competition that doesn't just focus on winning. You also just build relationships with people in Alaska and on your team that you could probably never create somewhere else."