By all accounts, Jason Miller is a coach at Friendship Christian School.
He coaches basketball and has been known to coach a little baseball in the past. But Miller also takes pride in coaching Olympians, Science Olympians, that is.
“I had a team for seven years in Ohio,” Miller said. “[Friendship administrators] wanted me to come down and spend some time with them to develop a team. I have some family living near here. While I was here, they asked me if I could interview with them.”
And the rest, as Miller said, is history. Now in his 10th year of coaching Science Olympiad, teams, particularly the middle school team, recently have seen some success at Friendship.
“We’ve competed in Ohio and in Georgia,” Miller said. “We called off our Alabama trip due to our football championship.”
Most recently at the Booth Invitational in Peachtree City, Ga., the middle school team finished 11th in the 51-team field and had eight top-10 finishes. The team also finished 13th in a field of 55 teams at the Wright Invitational in Ohio.
The team consists of 15 participants each competing in 23 different events at both the middle and high school levels.
“It kind of lays out like a track meet,” Miller said.
The middle school team at Friendship has gone to nationals on two different occasions in Kansas in 2007 and in Wisconsin in 2011. In the past nine years, the middle school team has seen competition at the state level, finishing no worse than sixth. It is a four-time runner-up at state and was state champions in 2011.
“We feel like it’s no different than a sports team,” Miller said. “Last year was a rebuilding year. We suddenly have some experience back and feel like we can be a definite contender to win state.”
With the high school team down in numbers this year, Miller said it’s only a matter of time before it is competitive with 10 freshmen moving up to the senior ranks next year.
“As a team, they really don’t have the number to be a threat at state,” Miller said. “We have really encouraged them to be strong in their individual events. They won’t be a factor in overall team standings.”
But Miller said he has high hopes for the middle schoolers.
“They prepare every week just like an athletic team would,” Miller said.
Seventh-grader Caleb Ross and freshman Natalee Nave compete in an event called sounds of music, among others. In it, students have to build a musical instrument and play two songs.
For Nave, the choice was easy as she showed off the ukulele she made from a cigar box. She said her inspiration came from her ability to play the violin and her father, who “can play just about anything.”
Among Ross’ five events also includes building a mouse trap-powered car. But powering the vehicle is just half the battle. Rules say he also has to stop it after going a predetermined distance. So Ross added brakes to his vehicle he can adjust according to the event’s specified distance needed to travel.
Miller said the team also tries to visit a museum or make some other educational stop along the way while on team trips to competitions. A trip to Georgia allowed the students to see a Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit.