BUSHNELL — A battle raged at the Dade Battlefield Historic State Park on Wednesday, but it was much different from the fight that took place here more than a century ago. That one was fought with bullets; this one, with brains.
High school students from Hernando, Pasco, Citrus and Sumter counties competed for $2,500 in scholarship money at the 13th annual Nature Coast Envirothon. Hundreds of teens from more than 50 five-member teams circulated among five stations where they were timed as they answered difficult questions about soils, forestry, aquatics, wildlife and recreational impacts of natural resources.
Springstead High School's "J.A.M.E.S. 5" was the top scorer for Hernando County. The team members are Matt Russo, Eric Lataxes, Alteneese Arrington, Stephanie Arciniegas and Jennifer Zodda. This was the team's first Envirothon.
The team cited a solid reason for doing the best in the county. "We studied hard," said Arciniegas, 16. "Highlighters came in handy."
Russo, 16, gave credit to teachers Lisa Dickinson, Chris Auricchio and Carla Rydzik. "Our teachers gave us the right things to study."
The overall winning team, "Not Applicable," was from Citrus County's Academy of Environmental Science. Michelle Ball, Trevor Van Voorthujsen, Tyler Van Voorthujsen, Mike Shapot and Wacharapon Chaiyajak will share the scholarship.
The students said several factors led to their success, including using sound reasoning when they were not sure of an answer, and having Ball on the team, whom Tyler Van Voorthujsen assessed as "amazing."
Besides dealing with difficult questions, the students also struggled to stay warm. With temperatures reaching only into the 50s, the students had hoods up and hands in pockets. Pasco's Hudson High School's James Hurst, 18, a senior on "The Electrons," said his team bonded between tests when they huddled together to stay warm.
The soils category was most often named by students as the most difficult. Springstead's "We M.A.D." (as in, We Make A Difference) struggled with recreational impacts of natural resources.
"They asked some pretty hard questions," said Samantha Matlick, 17.
There was a category where they felt they were strong, though. "I think it's forestry," said Mark Lombardi-Nelson, 15.
Paulette Lash Ritchie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1) Recreational impacts of natural resources:
Which of the following is not one of the four major landscape components impacted by recreation?
What bird uses its sense of smell to locate its food?
a) wild turkey
b) turkey vulture
c) Carolina chickadee
e) Cooper's hawk
What is value notation?
a) Indicates its lightness
b) Indicates departure from lightness
c) Indicates its darkness
d) None of the above
e) All of the above
Select the tree that is most resistant to fire, insects and diseases.
c) sand pine
d) pond pine
e) slash pine
Answers: 1) a; 2) b; 3) a; 4) b