Teacher brings success to TMP
By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN
Jim Balthazor has become accustomed to taking teams to the state Science Olympiad the past several years.
After retiring from Russell USD 407 last year, he had no idea he would be returning to the annual event in Wichita so soon.
Following his retirement from Russell, where he was coach of successful Science Olympiad squads for nearly 20 years, Balthazor took a job as science teacher at the new junior high school at Thomas More Prep-Marian in Hays.
In its first year of existence, Balthazor not only coached the Monarch junior high team to state but did so in impressive fashion.
TMP won the regional last week at Fort Hays State University, one of five regional meets across the state, with 77 points. That was nine points better than runner-up Hill City.
Those two teams are assured of a trip to the state competition, scheduled for April 6 at Wichita State University. Thirty teams are invited to participate at state, 15 from schools with 600 students and above and 15 with less than 600 students.
The top two teams from regionals automatically qualify for state, and some third- and fourth-place teams then receive invitations to fill the 30 available spots. So the high school team from Hays High also could compete at state as the Indians finished fourth in Division C.
Goodland won Division C, made up of ninth- through 12th-graders, by running away from its competition with 53 points; the second-place High Plains Home Educators team from Garden City had 89 points.
Balthazor could see some familiar faces at state. Russell High placed third at regionals in Division C, and Ruppenthal was fourth in Division B.
Division B is made up of sixth- through ninth-graders, so Balthazor was able to add four freshmen from TMP Senior High.
He said state competition is extremely tough "because when I was at Russell, we would go up against the largest schools in Kansas and all the big private schools."
He said a lot of the larger schools have five freshmen and 10 eighth-graders, because a team can have as many as 15 members.
However, he said he thinks the state-meet experience, and Science Olympiad in general, is invaluable.
"It's an excellent experience," he said. "When I had kids sixth through 12th grades in the 1990s (on Science Olympiad teams at Russell), they went on to highly successful careers. There was a doctor, a CEO, a computer operator, a couple of lawyers ... pretty impressive."
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Members of Thomas More Prep-Marian Junior-Senior High School's regional championship Science Olympiad team in Division B were:
Ninth-graders -- Laura Krug, Peak Novorumitkul, Jared Rack and Colin Wasinger.
Eighth-graders -- Isaac Dopita, Alexyss Lambert, Matthew Moeder and Bryan Weber.
Seventh-graders -- Haley Aufdemberge, Hope Aufdemberge, Autumn Hohmann, David McFarland, Brianna Romme and Jace Rueschhoff.
Members of Hays High School's team that placed fourth in Division C were:
12th-graders -- Daniel Bittel, Brady Kenton, Sarah Mallott, Christopher Rooney and Olivia Zody.
11th-graders -- Kord Albers, Mackenzie Albers, Kaden Beilman, Sana Cheema, Shawn Herman, Macey Pfeifer and Samantha Rohleder.
10th-grader -- Sarah Rooney.