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Lions have their plate full with Westview, 62 other tough teams at event scheduled for Feb. 23

Cracking the top 16 at the Oregon regional Science Bowl, one of the largest regions in the country, is a big deal. West Linn High School Science Bowl coach Jon Isensee believes his team of five seniors has a decent shot at breaking that threshold Feb. 23.

"The kids that are on my senior team, they've done this for four years and they know what they're doing," Isensee said. "I feel that making it to the round of 16 this year is a good possibility."

Sixty-four teams compete in the Oregon regional, while most other regions have only half that Isensee said.

Breaking into the round of 16 is a big deal at the Oregon regional not just because there are so many teams, but because so many of those teams are so good.

"It attracts the top talent in the state. The schools expected to do well, do well. They crush schools," Isensee said.

The school that crushes teams more than any other is Westview High School. According to Isensee, Westview has won the regional for the past five years and WLHS has had the misfortune of being matched up with them in the opening rounds.

Because schools are allowed to bring up to three teams, Westview brings three every year, "and they're all phenomenal," Isensee said. West Linn is bringing two teams this year, a freshmen and sophomore teams and a more experienced team of five seniors.

Isensee likes to divide his students this way to give the underclassmen some experience and the upperclassmen the best possible shot of moving on.

A stiff field of opponents hasn't been the only thing holding the WLHS teams back in recent years. Isensee's teams, which used to move on to the round of 16 pretty consistently hasn't made it in the past few years, partly because other activities are drawing interest away from Science Bowl.

"At West Linn there are so many clubs and so many things that attract kids that it's hard to get kids to commit to one thing," Isensee said. "I've a lost a lot of kids in recent years to science fair."

At the regional level, teams are entered into a pool play with a random selection of teams to start the tournament. From there the top 16 move on to a double elimination bracket. Only the top finisher moves on to nationals.

"The highest I've had a team finish was third place," said Isensee, who has coached the WLHS team for the past 19 years.

Once a team makes it that far, a lot of things are left to chance, he said.

"When you get to that level, it's just the luck of the draw which questions you get. You might have some kid that's phenomenal at math and you get really far but then they ask a bunch of biology questions and you have no one on your team that's good in biology. So, the final rounds becomes a little bit of luck."

Even when the team doesn't do as well as it had hoped, the competition is still fun for the kids, Isensee said.

"All the kids know each other, even if they go to different schools. They've all gone to science competitions against each other or summer seminars at colleges and universities where all of these kids go to the same seminar," he said. "It's also a measuring stick for how well you do against the best in the state."

The Oregon regional was postponed from Feb. 9 to Feb. 23 because of weather concerns. The competition will take place at University of Portland.

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