AURORA - Four North Marion High School students will be traveling to Washington, D.C., on April 25 after winning top honors at Oregon State University's Regional Ocean Sciences Bowl.

Jason Griffith, Eric Griffith, Chris Rombough and Jason Tautfest will get a chance to win a trip to Lisbon, Portugal, as they match their skills against high schools students from across the country at the National Ocean Sciences Bowl Competition.

"When we won the competition at OSU, I was so excited," Jason Griffith, a North Marion High junior, said. "The longest trip I've taken away from home has been to Kelso, Wash."

His brother Eric, a sophomore, said their achievement was amazing, considering the foursome knew little about ocean sciences when they agreed to compete in the regionals at OSU.

"How it all started, was last November, a teacher asked if I knew much about marine biology, " said Rombough, a junior. "At that time, none of us knew anything," but the teacher suggested that it might be rewarding to enter the regional ocean bowl competition.

Regional competition was scheduled at OSU on Feb. 28. More than 40 Oregon high school students from a dozen schools would be spending their day at OSU answering a series of questions on how the oceans affect climate, economic well-being, history, culture and quality of life, said Robert Duncan, OSU professor of oceanic and atmospheric sciences and sciences bowl coordinator. The winning team would go to the nationals in Washington.

Figuring they had nearly three months to become ocean experts, the Aurora four lost no time in plotting a course for success.

"We put together a team and every day at lunch we would meet for 20 minutes and study oceanography," Rombough said.

"Chris really did do a lot to help our team go forward," Tautfest said. "He was mostly our teacher."

By the time February rolled around, the team was well-versed in basic oceanography, but they couldn't shake the jitters.

"Once we got to OSU, I got nervous," said Eric Griffith. "It was kind of wearing."

And their initial performance did nothing to calm their nerves.

"We lost our first two rounds," Rombough said.

"There were some real awesome teams," Tautfest said. "I didn't think we'd win."

But as morning wore into afternoon, it was obvious that the North Marion High team's months of study was paying off.

And once they were declared winners, Jason Griffith said, "I was so excited, I couldn't even talk."

Duncan praised all the students who competed and said they showed terrific ability and knowledge.

If the Aurora residents win the nationals, they will travel to Portugal for the 1998 Lisbon World Exposition this summer, which celebrates the theme, "The Oceans, a Heritage for the Future," Duncan said.

Regardless of their performance in the nationals, the four plan to continue their study program.

"All of us will compete again next year," Tautfest said. And in 1999, they won't be starting from scratch.

Click photos to see a full-size version. Right click and save image to download.


Chris Rombough, 503-678-1410