CORVALLIS - The snow was coming so hard over the first five miles of a 250-mile journey to Bozeman last week that students on the Corvallis Middle School team heading for the Montana Science Olympiad wondered if they would make it.
Their reward for not turning the bus around in Victor was a first-place finish in the statewide science competition.
The team was so set on going - the 13-student squad had hosted a school dance to raise funds for the trip - that coach Jill Warren had lined up parents to drive if the school canceled the bus.
"Hell or high water, school bus or not, we were going," Warren said.
Neither hell nor high water intervened. And the snowstorm that caused 20 of 52 schools to stay home granted the Corvallis group a window to make the journey safely.
Good thing. Their efforts in Tuesday's competition netted two gold medals, a silver and a bronze.
Corvallis bested Big Timber, the reigning state champ, which finished second. Clancy Middle School finished third.
Maddy Channer and Luke Channer took gold in the optics competition and Thor Montgomery and Maddy Channer finished first in fossils. Meanwhile, Maddie Murray and Luke Channer won a silver medal in tower building, finishing just ahead of the bronze medal effort from Minica Casbara and Sophia Schmit of Hamilton Middle School.
Corvallis teammates Ashley White and Kyle Shifflett placed third in anatomy and physiology.
In trebuchet, a catapult competition that forces students to graph the trajectory and velocity of their projectile, Corvallis didn't place, but managed to be the only team to land their projectile in the bucket.
The gold medal team result wasn't readily apparent at first, Warren said, because the team was already Bitterroot-bound, hoping to get lucky with the weather one more time.
Warren said she called out the results as they were relayed to her via cell phone.
And since they didn't get to receive their medals in person, Warren said she and fellow coach David Chimo hope to hold a ceremony at the school, where they will let the community know that they intend to raise money to help the team get to the Science Olympiad national competition, set for May in Madison, Wisc.
Warren said the team hopes news that Corvallis took Montana's top honors in the middle-school science competition might foster some goodwill when it comes to raising funds.
The coach from Big Timber told her it would likely cost close to $20,000 to get all 13 team members to the competition.
Warren said there wasn't a game plan just yet as to how the team might raise that money, though because some families have more than one student on the team the need for funding is clear.
"We'll just take it one event or one kid at a time and we'll just see how it goes," Warren said.
Also, at the Montana Science Olympiad:
Hamilton High School finished fourth, cracking the top five for the first time on what coach Tom Schmit called a very solid all-around performance.
"I feel like it was a very positive experience," Schmit said. "For years, Hamilton has placed in the top 10 and we've always talked about how it was a curse that we couldn't crack that top five. But we finally did and that has been a nice relief for us. We finally broke the curse."
The goal the team set was to finish in the top 10 in each of its events, Schmit said. In the end, they did just that in 10 of the 12 events they entered.
Medaling were Varsha Rao and Nellie Moran (silver in forensics), Casey Shifflett and Rao (bronze in "disease detectives"), and Sam Kern and Kyle Lubke (silver in the "Mission Possible" Rube Goldberg competition).
Meanwhile, Florence and Victor high schools finished in 11th and 12th places respectively.
And at the middle-school level, Victor Middle School placed 24th.
Reporter Sepp Jannotta can be reached at 363-3300 or firstname.lastname@example.org.