MHS team finishes in top 8 in country in Ocean Bowl final

Maui High School’s Ocean Bowl team finished eighth in the country in the 16th National Ocean Sciences Bowl Finals – the fourth time a Sabers team has finished in the top eight.

Still, there was disappointment, according to coach Ed Ginoza, a retired science teacher at Maui High.

The team was returning four of five students from a unit that finished sixth in last year’s national Ocean Bowl, tying the school’s highest-ever finish.

“I think it was disappointing, but you know the competition was a lot better than last year,” he said after arriving home Monday from Wisconsin, where the national finals were held. “Most of the teams are getting to be better prepared because the competition is tough.”

He noted that there were new teams at the top of the Ocean Bowl and past powerhouses were eliminated early on. In fact, one of those seven first-time schools, Arcadia High School from the Los Angeles area, took the title in the competition that consisted of buzzer-style, multiple choice questions and longer, critical thinking-based team challenge questions on ocean-related topics.

The Hawaii champions included juniors Riley Camp, Gabriel Salazar and Bryson Galapon; senior and team captain Steven Okada; and sophomore Christopher Kim. The team from Maui went 3-1 in the qualifying rounds, losing only to Lexington High School of Massachusetts that ended up second in the Ocean Bowl that attracted 25 teams from around the country.

Their record, coupled with their paper on invasive species, left the Maui High team members ranked ninth going into the double-elimination rounds. They lost to Juneau-Douglas High School of Alaska, another new team to the Ocean Bowl.

“They were a lot better than we expected,” Ginoza said. “They were a lot faster than we expected.”

He explained that new teams often are slower to buzz in but the Alaska team that ended third in the contest was not.

Maui High would win two more matches before falling to Albany High School from California’s Bay Area in the event held at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Albany would finish fifth.

The champions, Arcadia High, defeated Lexington by a point at the buzzer in the final match, Ginoza said. The national Ocean Bowl champions had some Maui connections with the coach having grandparents from here and a teacher on their faculty who grew up in Kula, he said.

For Maui High, one less win in the final rounds than last year left them in eighth place, instead of sixth.

“Nothing to be ashamed off,” Ginoza said. “For us, it is not that bad.”

There was not much time to reflect on their performance. The same group of young scientists left Maui on Tuesday for the National Science Bowl, to be held from Thursday to Monday in Washington, D.C. The Maui High team also captured the state Science Bowl.

“Science Bowl is really really tough,” said Ginoza.

There are more than 50 teams in the competition that come from such institutions as Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, a Virginia magnet school that accepts only the top 10 percent of applicants in Fairfax County.

Adding to the difficulties is the rush of end-of-year events including the Hawaii State Science & Engineering Fair earlier this month. Okada took a college visit to Massachusetts Institute of Technology last week.

“It’s kind hard this time of year” because the students are so busy, he said.

No Hawaii team has ever made it to the double-elimination rounds at the national Science Bowl.

“That would be our goal,” he said.

* Lee Imada can be reached at