MEDFORD - A team of students from South Medford High School has taken first-place honors at Oregon State University's fourth annual Salmon Bowl.

The competition, part of the National Ocean Sciences Bowl, tests oceanography knowledge. South Salem High School took second-place and Portland's Catlin Gabel School took third.

OSU's Salmon Bowl was the Oregon Regional Competition of the National Ocean Sciences Bowl, which includes 19 regional competitions across the nation. The OSU competition is hosted by the university's College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences.

Seventeen high school teams from across Oregon spent a recent Saturday at OSU's Salmon Bowl answering a series of questions on how the oceans affect climate, economic well-being, history, culture and quality of life.

"It was pretty tough, they asked a lot of tough questions," said South Salem sophomore Chris Symeonides. "I originally decided to get into this because my chemistry teacher asked me. I was glad we did so well."

South Salem senior Chris Schmokel has participated in Salmon Bowl since he was a sophomore.

"I'm a big fan of oceanography," Schmokel said. Unfortunately this year he had to miss the actual competition because he had to work.

"The main thing is practicing and getting all the rules down," Schmokel said.

"It was a lot of fun," said South Medford senior Mae Truwe. "We sent a team last year and they did amazingly well and this year, well, we won.

"Our coach, Steve Jensen, he just devotes so much time to this, to science in general. He is a great mentor," said Truwe, who is planning to attend college and possibly pursue a career in astrophysics.

After taking first at OSU, the South Medford team will match skills against 18 other high school teams from across the country at the National Ocean Sciences Bowl finals in Miami, March 31-April 2.

The South Medford team's regional win earned them $2,500 scholarships to the Sea Education Association's Semester at Sea program, as well as a digital camera and color computer printer for their school. Prizes for the national finals have not been announced, but in the past have included educational trips to Lisbon, Portugal; Monterey and Catalina Island in California; the Florida Keys, research vessel cruises, visits to oceanographic institutions and aquaria, scholarships, scientific equipment and books. South Salem won $300 in scientific equipment, as well as a behind-the-scenes tour of the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport. Catlin Gabel School won a color computer printer and passes to the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

The bowl format involves a timed competition of multiple-choice or short-answer questions within the broad category of the oceans. Practice with when and how to answer questions is critical, Schmokel said.

Other teams included Tillamook High School; South Wasco High School; Powder Valley High School; North Marion High; Neah-Kah-Nie High; McMinnville High; McKay High; Grants Pass High; Dallas High; Crook County High; Corvallis High; Bandon High and Ashland High.

More than 100 people, businesses and organizations helped stage the event. More information on the National Ocean Sciences Bow is available on the World Wide Web.

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Larry O'Neill, 541-737-2492