Carroll 4th in environment contest

August 28, 1994|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,Sun Staff Writer

Steve Hillyer compared going to the national Envirothon to being in the NCAA's Final Four -- and never having played in a championship basketball game.

The environmental competition was stiff, and the play grueling, as the novice Joppatowne High team went against the top 22 teams in the United States and one from Nova Scotia in Asheville, N.C., this month.

"Some teams had a lot of seniors. The polish was there," said Mr. Hillyer, an environmental science teacher and coach of the five-student Envirothon team from Joppatowne High.

But the Harford County school, representing Maryland, finished fourth in the nation, topped by teams from Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New York. Along the way, the Joppatowne team won the forestry and wildlife categories.

Envirothon, which began in 1979, is a competition in which high school students respond to environmental problems. They are tested in forestry, wildlife, soils, aquatics and a changing fifth category. This year, it was acid deposition.

"What is extraordinary is the caliber of students from other states," said Gary Davis, district manager of the Harford County Soil Conservation District, which sponsors the county competition. "Harford County should be proud of its environmental program."

Placing fourth in the nationals is "one of the crown jewels in that effort," Mr. Davis said.

"It was exciting," said Joppatowne team member Emily Francis, who will be a senior this year. "I had a hard time believing we made it."

Other Joppatowne team members were Nikia Hill, Nova Shaffer, Luke Shaffer and Darren Swift.

The Joppatowne students almost didn't get to compete.

"A week prior to the nationals, we had no idea how we were going to get there," Mr. Hillyer said. Their savior was Alice Dousa, a secretary at the school, who volunteered her seven-passenger van.

Harford has participated in the Envirothon, held locally in April, for the past three years. Joppatowne has captured the county title each year, but always missed winning the state championship by a few points.

Joppatowne won handily, by 30 points in a 500-point hands-on and written test. Exercises in the state competition included such problems as determining the height of a tree and mapping tidal waters.

Mr. Hillyer already is anticipating next year's national competition. "It's going to be held in Idaho. The kids could take a trip to Yellowstone," he said. "It's an incentive."

He also has Emily's words ringing in his ears after her presentation before a large audience Asheville: 'This is the most stressful thing I've done in my life.' "

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