Successes add up for Orono Middle School math teams

Orono Middle School students participating in math competitions enjoyed a successful season this school year.

Junior High Math League
Orono Middle School Junior High Math League teams took the top two places in the Waytonka B division this year, and all four teams finished in the top half of the 20 teams in the division. Orono “/ and Conquer” finished first and Orono “Navy” finished second. These teams held those places since the second of the season’s five meets. (After the first meet, their positions were flipped) Orono “Cardinal” finished in eighth place and Orono “White” in 10th, which Coach Greg Pusch says is remarkable since “White” was short-handed in two of the five meets.

“By the third meet, it had become obvious that it would be a dominant season for Orono,” Pusch added. “Which afforded me the opportunity to mix performance levels within each of the teams.” “There were many benefits,” he explained. “Every team member can claim to have contributed to each of the teams, the more experienced and/or higher-scoring members could mentor the less experienced, and we were able to make the meets competitive.”

Individually, Orono’s trophy case is bulging. The top four scorers in the division were all from Orono: Max Welty, first; Joshua Pusch, second; Michael Rascher, third; and Luc Forsans, fourth. Additional awards went to Jack Eugster, seventh; Laura Schoenzeit, eighth; and Sam Ertmer, 10th. The division boasted a record 138 scorers this year.

In state rankings, “/ and Conquer” placed 17th and “Navy” 28th out of 249 scoring teams. Individually, Welty was 24th, Pusch was 37th, Rascher was 48th and Forsans 57th out of a field of nearly 2,200 individuals who scored.

Orono Middle School sent a team to the MathCounts competition February 11. The team placed fourth behind Wayzata East, Wayzata Central and Osseo. Ten schools sent teams to the chapter-level competition. Three individuals scored in the top 10: Sam Ertmer, sixth; Michael Rascher, eighth; and Laura Schoenzeit, ninth. Teams needed be among the top three and individuals among the top four to advance to state competition.

Nevertheless, Coach Pusch remains optimistic. “I’m extremely proud of the kids’ performance this year,” he says. “We were the ‘bridesmaids’ in the division competition last year, missing team and individual awards by one place, and we were shell-shocked by MathCounts. Fast forward to this year: We dominated the division and finished respectably at MathCounts, and most of the ten members are sixth-graders or younger. I think exciting times are yet to come for the middle school math teams, and I hope our graduating eighth-graders carry this performance into the high school.”

Math Masters
Orono’s Math Masters teams also fared well this year. Orono sent a record four teams to the competition. The top two teams finished second, missing first by one point, and ninth out of 25 teams.

Nora Chouanard took first in fact drill, with other individual awards in fact drill going to Sam Ertmer, fifth; Michael Rascher, ninth; Isabelle Seran, 16th; and Nathan Koopman, 20th.

Eli Hamer won third in the individual rounds, with awards also going to Ertmer, fifth; Rascher, ninth; Colin Parker, 19th; and Zara Coakley 27th.

“This is the most teams we’ve ever sent to competition and, while the kids were a little bummed to take second, we brought home more individual awards than ever,” Coach Pusch notes. “This league is a gateway to the Junior High Math League, and I’m looking forward to adding these strong performers to next year’s strong team!”

The Orono Middle School Parent Association funded one Junior High Math League team, the MathCounts team and two Math Masters teams. Coach Pusch, a physics and astronomy teacher at Orono High School, also wants to acknowledge OHS junior Tate Welty. He became the de facto assistant coach for the math league team. “Tate helped me at practice hour every Friday and at every meet, which was three hours door-to-door. He invested a huge amount of personal time and effort in this team, and was basically my right-hand man.”