Victory at the Orca Bowl

Garfield blows the competition out of the water.


Photo courtesy of Malini Williams

Ahoy! Sporting tricorne hats, fearsome bandannas, and the skull and crossbones, the Garfield Bulldogs swashbuckled their way to victory at this year’s Orca Bowl. Over twenty high schools compete in this regional marine science bee, but only one team brings home the victory plaque.

This year, the state championship goes to Garfield team members Malini Williams, Magdalena Phillips, Aviv Pinker, and Spencer Hulsman-Wells who have all been invited to nationals in Washington D.C. The Garfield Orca Bowl team isn’t just four people, though: functioning much like a club, there are weekly lunch meetups where all ten current members will prepare for the yearly competition.

Magdalena Phillips, a senior on the team, says that even if preparation can be a bit informal, it is nonetheless pretty extensive.

“There’s a theme for each year, so we each get a topic based on that theme” Phillips said. “My topic was ocean policies, so I made a presentation on that and presented it to the club. If an ocean policy question comes up, it’s my job to know how to answer it.”

Originally started by Walter P. Spangenberg in the late 90s, the Garfield Orca Bowl team has since been supervised by Jonathan Stever for almost twenty years now. Despite being the team’s coach, Stever says that the club is run mainly by the students.

“I give them all the responsibilities, I pass on all the emails to them, and they do all the registration and the paperwork” Stever says. “It’s really fun actually, these students are really interested in a field that I’m passionate about so it’s fun to support them.”

Even after all their practice and preparation, winning the Orca Bowl is no easy task. Some of the teams come from high schools such as ORCA (Ocean Research College Academy) whose curriculum is based solely around marine science. Malini Williams, the team captain, says they were certainly not expecting to win much less make it past the first eliminations.

“We had no expectations and we thought we’d be lucky to get out of the group stages” said Malini. “But after the single elimination we went on to beat on of the best teams and we then really committed ourselves during the double elimination.”

Despite the fierce competition that occurs at the Orca Bowl, Malini stills enjoys the environment and interactions between the teams.

“All the people on the teams were all really friendly with each other, and I knew a lot of them through working at the aquarium and having been at the competition in the past” said Malini “and so that atmosphere at the orca bowl is always very nice.”

Although Garfield has been invited to participate in the national marine science competition, none of the team will be able to go. Not expecting to win the Orca Bowl, all four members had scheduled other plans during spring break which is when the competition occurs. However,  as state champions, the team members will be able to take part in an enriching hands-on research cruise.