TJ Jenkins knows weather. Sara Jones knows her way around a written test. Together, the two Contentnea-Savannah K-8 classmates know what it feels like to come home with honors from the North Carolina Science Olympiad tournament.
The team of Jones and Jenkins followed their first-place finish in the regional Science Olympiad in April with a second-place finish in the meteorology competition on the much larger stage of the state games.
“Our teacher, Ms. (Mary) Riddick, thought we’d be a good combination because I know a lot about meteorology and she’s really good at taking tests,” TJ said.
“I think we work pretty well together,” Sara agreed.
The two eighth graders do seem to be on the same wavelength, finishing each other’s thoughts in a recent interview when asked about the test that made up the meteorology competition.
Sara: “This year’s theme was on severe weather, so it had a lot of questions about storms and graphs with precipitation amounts and stuff like that. You have to know a lot about the different kinds of clouds.”
TJ: “Also about different types of storm systems, tornadoes and stuff like that …
Sara: “… and what effect they would have if they came through an area.”
The test itself, largely multiple choice, covered 60 questions and had a time limit of about 45 minutes. The CSS team completed it in about 20, TJ said.
“I had faith we’d finish in the top 10 at least,” he said.
They studied “a lot” in preparation for both the regionals and state tournaments, but came at the challenge from different perspectives – TJ as a student of the science and Sara as a student excited about learning.
“I want to be a meteorologist,” TJ said. “I’ve been interested in it since I was like 8.” Spending his youngest years in Oklahoma, he became intimately aware of tornadoes. He remembered one twister that hit Joplin, Mo. “We were like 30 minutes away from where it happened. When I saw it on the news, I thought it was the craziest, most interesting thing I’d every seen and I’ve been hooked on it ever since,” he said.
“I think meteorology is an interesting topic because a lot of the things you learn about in school are very interesting but they’re happening very far away from you,” Sara said. “Meteorology is something that happens in your everyday lives.”
Sara, 13, is the daughter of Greg and Amy Jones of Ayden.
TJ, 14, is the son of Tonya and Mike Jenkins of Kinston.