Well, since I was summoned...
What really got me into Science Olympiad, I think, was the entire aspect of the competition being based upon a team. Looking back, I'm not sure exactly why; I always preferred to work alone (I still do) and logically I wouldn't like the idea of my team not doing well and holding me back. However, that's what ended up doing it, and Science Olympiad became the thing where I felt I could lead, both by example and by action, for the betterment of a group. If I recall correctly, that was actually the first time I really took on a leadership role. So it was a great feeling for me, and when I was named co-captain of J.T. Lambert in my eighth grade year, I made sure that I would set an example for the rest of the team (there was also the fact that I had not medaled at states the previous year, and I didn't want that to happen again). Really, it was being named co-captain that really changed Science Olympiad from being a fun activity that I was okay at to something that I put forth a real commitment to excellence. (Interestingly, that was also the year I joined Scioly.org. Coincidence? Maybe not.
So that's what sucked me in. Now the question becomes, why did stick with it? Why did I continue putting forth so much time to Science Olympiad in high school when I had just helped my middle school to one of its best finishes in school history, and I had earned nine medals out of the ten events I competed in (stupid Science Word at states XD)? What more did I have to prove to myself or anyone else?
Well, you see, after the success of my eighth grade year, I was hooked. I longed for, I needed
that feeling of glory when my school was called at an awards ceremony, when I went down to get my medal when I already had several clinking on my neck. But there was more in play than just that. I knew my high school, East Stroudsburg South had never qualified for states, and that despite the relative success of J.T. Lambert, the high school was never able to continue that. This was my chance to really create a tradition, really make something lasting, something I could say years down the road "I helped to build this". Now, as many of you who did both B and C know, I didn't realize what challenges there were going to be. Not only did I have to handle the more difficult events, but there was also the perceived stigma of a freshman coming in and trying to "take over" the team (I ended up with Astronomy just by clinging onto it for so long), and the fact that most of the high schoolers there were not willing to put in the effort necessary for success. So in my freshman year, a year after they had gotten 9th at regionals, we finished 15th.
Naturally, I was not happy with this, and it could easily have discouraged me into thinking, maybe this isn't worth all of the effort needed. But it was too late now, I had set this goal and I absolutely had to reach it. I expanded my commitment to Science Olympiad by suggesting invitationals, finding practice tests for people, and organizing all event logistics. I wanted to do everything possible so that we could make states. Did I have some doubts? Absolutely. After we missed states by two places in my junior year, I began to wonder if it was worth stressing myself even more to move over that hump. And yet, I did. Even somewhat to the detriment of other clubs, if I was going to keep doing well in school (especially chess, I had a worse record my senior year than my junior year, even though I played first board both years). Even considering the fact that I tend to thrive when under pressure, it was getting a bit much.
Luckily, this saga had a happy ending. Despite never having qualified for states before, our team, which had a great mix of seniors and underclassmen that was experienced from invitationals and previous years, dominated every team not named Athens, placing second with 13 total medals. Not only did we have great medaling performances, but it was a good all-around showing as well. That was the moment when I knew it had all been worth it: hearing our school being called for second place, holding that trophy, eating dinner with JTL knowing that this year we would both be attending states together, all of it was special to me.
Everything that happened at states then was gravy, and even though I would have liked to medal in more than just Astronomy, 10th place was beyond any goal I had set, and I knew that for the team to do this required every single member to put in his or her share of work. That's when I knew that even after I graduated, this was going to be okay. East Stroudsburg South was not a one time thing, but hopefully a year-to-year staple at states. I was proven right the following year, when the team managed to do something that I didn't, which was win a conference championship. It was tremendously fulfilling to know that all the work I had done since middle school helped to create something that will continue to evolve and grow in the future.
Some final thoughts to this wall of text: would I have been as devoted to Science Olympiad had I not attended J.T. Lambert or ES South, but a different school that had a team? The answer: I'm not sure. I would like to think so, but at a more competitive team, I may not have found that leadership niche I cherished so much, and at a less competitive team, making states may not have been realistic. It would seem that my location was particularly important; heck, it's in my username! However, I do think i would still have devoted a lot of time to it. Once I earned a medal, I suspect, I would have been nearly as motivated as I was here; it just happens that I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to create a lot of "firsts" at my high school.
So in summary
, the following things caused me to spend so much time on SO: craving for success, ability to hold leadership and set an example, and the opportunity to make a real difference for my school. Probably pretty common things, but it happened in a bit of a unique way for me.
So that's my whole spiel. There you go, EFO. XD
One last thing: some people wonder why I keep going to tournaments and helping out, and why I stay active on here. Frankly, at this point, Science Olympiad is just a part of my life. Plus, it's great being able to go to tournaments and see everyone competing from "the other side" per se, knowing that at one point I was exactly where they are, not knowing what lay in store, but excited nonetheless. And ultimately I'd really like to hold some sort of position, either as the coach or assistant coach of a team, or as an assistant director (or even director) of a tournament somewhere. Not now of course, I have studies to attend to, but it's something that will always be in the back of my mind, so that maybe I'll be able to inspire someone just as I was inspired.