It was a tough choice for Immanuel's seventh- and eighth-graders: regional science fair, national basketball tournament, or both.
A group of 13 and 14 year olds from the East Dundee school faced this decision in late March when the announcement for those advancing to the Illinois Junior Academy of Science Regional Science Fair coincided with the school's first acceptance to the Lutheran Basketball Association of America National Basketball Tournament. Both events were held the same weekend, on college campuses in opposite directions.
Immanuel's boys varsity basketball team has posted an impressive season, losing only three games and winning two tournaments. At the state basketball tournament, they placed fourth, losing a heartbreaker to longtime foe Zion Lutheran of Marengo. The bid to the national tournament was an accomplishment of itself, as no Immanuel team has ever appeared at nationals. Along with the boys team, the cheerleaders were invited to travel with the team and cheer during the games. The students and their families were excited for the three-day tournament on the campus of Valparaiso University in Indiana.
Not a one-talent group, these students have also made a name for themselves in the science fair world. Of the 43 Immanuel students enrolled in the seventh and eighth grades, all completed a science fair entry that was then judged by area science teachers. After the judging, science teacher Sue Domeier announced 12 students had advanced to the next level -- the Illinois Regional IJAS Science Fair at Northern Illinois University. Again, students and their families looked forward to the competition.
But because the tournament ran March 22-24 in Indiana and the Science Fair was held on March 23, students and their parents had a decision to make: basketball or science fair. For five of the ball players, the choice was obvious: basketball. Connor Chwala, Jeremy Jareckyj, Daniel Leitner, Matthew Lemke and Brenden Pachniak opted to travel with the team to the tournament. Leitner, Lemke and Jareckyj have been starters this season, with the others providing backup. Cheerleader and eighth-grader Kayla Miller also chose to travel with the team rather than compete in the science fair.
A few brave students decided to try to do both. Eighth-graders Cassie Thompson and Maggie Heinz, along with seventh-graders Kendall Schmidt and Emily Larson left campus early on Friday to attend the Eagle's first basketball game at Valparaiso then left to travel home that afternoon to be ready to report in for the science fair early the next morning. Logging more than 200 miles in less than 24 hours, all four students were glad they made that choice, as all advanced to the Illinois State IJAS Science Fair held at the University of Illinois in May.
Immanuel science teacher Sue Domeier is proud of the school's achievements, pointing out that while overall 1 in 4 projects from regionals advanced to the state level, for Immanuel, 60 percent of its regional projects advanced to state. Add to that the sports success of being one of 30 teams in the national tournament, and Domeier is quick to say how proud she is of what the school offers its students.